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Eight hostages reported dead in Manila bus siege

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-08-23

Philippine police shot dead a former policeman as they stormed a bus on which he was holding 15 Hong Kong tourists hostage in Manila on Monday. China has said that eight of the hostages were killed.

A dramatic day-long hostage siege in downtown Manila involving a busload of Hong Kong tourists ended Monday with the gunman killed and several of his captives walking free, but eight of the tourists were reported dead.

The hostage taker, a disgruntled ex-policeman, was shot dead by police who stormed the bus in the final moments of the crisis in the Philippine capital. The situation was played out live on television screens around the globe.
Four of the tourists emerged from the bus alive, surrounded by police and emergency vehicles. China’s foreign ministry has reported that seven of the Hong Kong residents taken hostage had been killed, two severely injured, and that six more remain hospitalised.
Some of the hostages were seen being pulled out of the bus motionless, but it was unclear whether they were unconscious or dead.
The body of the gunman, a highly decorated former police inspector who hijacked the bus in a bid to get his job back, was seen slumped out of the main door of the vehicle.
Police struggle to gain the upper hand
Multiple gunshots were heard moments before armed police officers moved in on the bus near a park in Manila's historic tourist district just after nightfall.
The hostage taker, former senior police inspector Rolando Mendoza, said just before the police moved in on the bus that he had shot two of his captives and would kill the others if police did not move back.
Police were unable to get inside the bus for more than an hour after negotiations broke down and they decided to storm it.
They surrounded the bus, smashed its windows and opened fire, but Mendoza held them off by shooting back.
The crisis eventually wound down when police threw tear gas into the bus, and fired again.
According to Jacques Bessy, former chief of France’s National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, a special hostage rescue unit, the police’s response to the crisis was not sufficient. He noted a "lack of preparation and training”, and said the situation should have been handled with “a limited number of police officers, excellent shooters, and a very sudden breaking down of the bus door”.
FRANCE 24 correspondent Cyril Payen explained that “the great caution” used by the Philippine police could be linked to the fact that the hostages in question were tourists. Payen said the country’s tourism industry has suffered because of its “poor reputation when it comes to crime”, and local authorities don’t like to “make waves when tourists are involved”.
The hostage taker’s agenda
The hostage drama began when Mendoza boarded the bus Monday morning. He wanted to clear his name after being discharged from the police force in 2008 for his alleged involvement in drug-related crimes and extortion, according to police.
Mendoza, who is 55 years old, had posted a series of written messages on the windows of the bus, one of which read: "Big mistake for big wrong decision", apparently in reference to his sacking.
Yves Bonnet, of the International Centre for Research and Study into Terrorism and Assistance to the Victims of Terrorism, commented on Mendoza’s act in an interview with FRANCE24: “It’s obvious that the hostage taker could not realistically hope to be admitted back into the police force after such a violent act, proving in my opinion that he was not in possession of all his mental faculties”.
According to Philippine authorities, 22 tourists from Hong Kong were originally on the bus, including children, as well as the local driver and two other Filipinos.
Seven of the tourists, including three children and an elderly man, as well two Filipinos, were released at various times throughout the day.
The Filipino driver jumped out of a window and escaped just before police stormed the bus.
Monday's tragedy added to a number of attacks on foreigners in the Philippines. Gunmen shot dead a South Korean man in a separate attack on Monday morning in another section of Manila. Last month, an American, a South African, a Briton and their Filipina partners were killed in spate of murder-robberies north of Manila.


Date created : 2010-08-23