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'The tourist bus looked ?like a slaughter house'.

violent final stages were beamed live by global news channels

Manila Philippine police shot dead a former policeman as they stormed a bus on which he was holding 15 Hong Kong tourists hostage in downturn Manila on yesterday, and China said seven hostages were killed.

Two other hostages were seriously wounded in the siege, the violent final stages of which were beamed live by global news channels.

The gunman, identified as 55-year-old ex-police captain Rolando Mendoza, who had been dismissed from service, who was armed with an M-16 assault rifle, had stopped the bus, which initially had 25 people on board, on a wide road in Manila's biggest park in the morning.

"The hostage-taker was killed. He chose to shoot it out with our men," police Colonel Nelson Yabut told reporters.

"On our first assault, Captain Mendoza was sprawled in the middle of the aisle and shot one of our operatives. On our second assault we killed him."

Negotiation move

The Filipino driver of the tourist bus, who managed to escape from the carnage, said Mendoza was enraged after he saw on the TV monitor of the tourist bus how policemen manhandled and arrested his brother, police officer Gregorio Mendoza, after the latter tried to negotiate for the peaceful surrender of the former, and the safe release of his hostages.

Video shots of the policemen engaged in the rescue operations showed that it took them an hour to pry open the tourist bus which has a hydraulic-operated door. Another source said that a SWAT team managed to enter and subdue Mendoza after the bus driver managed to get out of the tourist bus.

After 7pm, about 10 hours after the tourists were taken hostage, shots came from policemen posted on top of a grandstand near the bus, which was parked by the Manila Bay, off Luneta Park. They targeted the wheels of the bus. This occurred after Mendoza's brother was arrested.

The death of the hostage-taker is being investigated. Before he reportedly killed his hostages, he was heard saying, "I will kill all the hostages if you [policemen] don't release my brother. I am not kidding."

Policemen prevented reporters from going inside the tourist bus after the hostage taker said he wanted to talk to the media.

"It was not supposed to be a negotiation, but a dialogue. We wanted the hostage-taker to air his grievances," said reporter Erwin Tulfo, adding that policemen in charge of the crisis insisted that the reporters were not safe and were afraid to talk to the hostage-taker.

Disaster committee

After the carnage, the tourist bus looked like a "slaughter house", said Tulfo.

Reacting to the shoddy negotiations and rescue operation that did not consider the safety of the hostages, Judge Jimmy Santiago said in a TV interview, "We should have a disaster committee prepared to handle this kind of situation." "Rule number one in handling a hostage situation is not to allow the hostage-taker to panic," said Santiago. "But he was provoked when he saw how his relatives were treated by the policemen.

"There is no time limit for a hostage-taker to surrender. Negotiations should be done patiently with consideration for the safety of the hostages," said Santiago.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero said the incident gave a black eye to Philippine tourism and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"The PNP should have a way for policemen to air their grievances," said Sen Escudero, adding that in less than a month, the image of the police was destroyed.

Last week, a video taken by a mobile phone was aired on TV, showing a police officer manhandling a suspected robber in a police station in Tondo, Manila's poor district.

Before three in the afternoon, the hostage taker had released a total of nine hostages, majority of them were Hong Kong Chinese.

The tourist bus carried a total of 23 people including 20 tourists from Hong Kong, three children, 17 adults, a Chinese tour guide.

-- With inputs ?from Reuters


Last journey

Filipino rescuers take the body of a hostage out of the window of a tourist bus after a hostage situation ended ?when the gunman was killed at Quirino grandstand in Manila yesterday.


Race against time

A freed hostage is being rushed to a hospital following an assault by police and SWAT members to rescue people in a bus at Manila's Rizal Park yesterday.


Tricky turn

Police commandos try to open the door of a bus during ?the assault on a bus with tourists being held hostage.


Set free

Filipino hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza (right), a dismissed police officer, releases an elderly hostage (centre) from a bus he seized in Manila.

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Article Details
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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 24, 2010
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