Gunmen opened fire on two buses in the troubled southern Philippines yesterday, killing two passengers and wounding 20 others, police said.
The attack, which police said could be a failed robbery or kidnap attempt, was the latest outbreak of violence in Maguindanao province, where a local political clan was accused of murdering 57 people in 2009.
The buses were shot at when they sped past gunmen in military-style uniforms who had tried to flag them down along an isolated stretch of highway, regional police chief Felicisimo Khu said.
Veronica Cruz, one of 22 people treated for gunshot wounds at a local hospital, said the driver in her bus thought the armed men were robbers and chose to run the blockade.
“The driver noticed there were armed men on the road, but they had no signs saying that they were police and army. They had boulders and tree trunks on the road so he suspected that it was a robbery,” she recalled.
“He yelled: ‘Get down, we are going through,’ and this was followed by gunshots,” Cruz said.
The drivers raced to a hospital so the wounded could be treated, but police said two of the 22 casualties were later pronounced dead.
Maguindanao police chief superintendent Marcelo Pintac said the area was a known haunt of Muslim rebels, highway robbers and kidnappers.
The southern Philippines has long been plagued by various armed groups who resort to robbery, extortion and kidnapping to raise money.
The armed groups also include Muslim separatist rebels, Islamic extremists, powerful political clans and bandits, some of whom clash violently over territory and political power.
The province was the scene of the country’s worst political massacre in November 2009, when suspected armed followers of a political clan killed 57 people to prevent a rival from challenging them for elective office.
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