Mangudadatu consultant killed

Agence France Presse

Posted at Jul 01 2012 03:35 PM | Updated as of Jul 02 2012 11:33 PM

MANILA, Philippine - An aide to a Philippine governor whose political challenge to a powerful Muslim clan led to the country's worst political massacre has been shot and killed, police said Sunday.

Police said they were investigating whether the shooting of Said Salik Saturday was related to the 2009 massacre of 57 people, after a string of killings targeting witnesses to the murders.

Salik, 65, was with his grand children when he was shot by two men riding in tandem aboard a motorcycle in the restive southern Philippines, police said.

"The victim was a consultant to Governor Toto Mangudadatu," regional police spokesman Inspector Benjamin Mauricio said.

Mauricio said the motive remained unclear, but stressed they were investigating whether it was related to the massacre.

Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu had challenged the powerful Ampatuan clan's control of the southern province in Maguindanao, leading to the massacre in 2009 of 57 people, including his wife, relatives and 32 journalists.

Mangudadatu's wife was en route to the election body's office to file his candidacy for governor accompanied by journalists and friends when they were seized by members of a private army controlled by the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuans had ruled Maguindanao for a decade, under the patronage of then-president Gloria Arroyo, who used the clan's private army as a buffer against Muslim guerrillas.

The Ampatuans saw Mangudadatu as a threat to the family's power, and ordered the massacre as a means to stop their rival's political ambitions, prosecutors said.

The clan's patriarch as well as several of his sons are among 196 people charged with conspiring to commit the murder, although police said over 100 suspects remained at large.

As the trial goes through the notoriously slow Philippine court system, three witnesses to the crime have been murdered.

Three relatives of other witnesses have also been killed, in what rights groups said was a clear pattern to silence anyone who dared testify against the Ampatuan clan.