Wednesday 24 January 2018

Eight killed as police storm hostage bus in Philippines

Tourists were held by former policeman

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok and Peter Foster in Beijing

At least eight people died yesterday when a former police inspector hijacked a coach filled with Chinese tourists in Manila and held them hostage for 12 hours.

Dressed in his police uniform and armed with an M16 assault rifle, Rolando Mendoza hitched a lift on the coach from the Philippine capital's historic walled city of Intramuros.

Once on board, he told the tourists, mainly from Hong Kong, that he was taking them hostage. He was demanding to be reinstated in the force after being sacked for extortion and robbery.

With the vehicle cordoned off in front of the Quirino grandstand, where Filipino president Benigno Aquino III took his oath of office in June, the 55-year-old hijacker posted his demands in the windows.

One piece of paper taped to the front windscreen was headed "RELEASE FINAL DECISION" and listed what appeared to be details of his case.

After five hours of talks, Mendoza released eight of the hostages -- two children, three women and three men -- followed by another shortly afterwards.

He allowed food and water on to the bus, as well as fuel to keep the air conditioning running.



Threats

Police negotiators talking to Mendoza said he was being "responsible" and "reasonable" even as the hours passed, with the hostages hidden behind the drawn curtains.

But as darkness fell, Mendoza seemed to grow agitated as he spotted police sharpshooters.

He called a local radio station on his mobile phone, threatening to kill the hostages, and saying that he would probably die too.

Shortly afterwards, his younger brother, Gregorio, a senior policeman who was brought in to help negotiations, ran up to the bus and urged the gunman to take him hostage and release those on the bus.

But he was then arrested in the belief that he was hindering the operation.

The commotion was followed by gunshots from inside the bus, which rolled forward about five yards before marksmen shot out the tyres, bringing it to a halt.

The hijacker called the radio station again and said he had killed two hostages.

Six of the 15 captives survived, and four were seen on live television crawling out the back door of the coach when police stormed it. The fate of the remaining person was not known.

The gunman was killed with a sniper shot to the head after he used his captives as human shields in the final moments of the standoff.

Dismissed

Mendoza (55) was dismissed for extorting 20,000 pesos (€350) from a drug suspect and forcing him to swallow a sachet containing the illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, or ice, the 'Philippine Daily Inquirer' reported, citing police records.

During the siege signs held up to the bus windows read "big mistake to correct a big wrong decision".

Newly elected president Benigno Aquino faces three armed insurgencies from Islamic and communist groups, and has pledged to crack down on corruption in the police force and end the use of more than 100 private armies. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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