Gunmen barged into the home of a village leader in the central Philippines, killing him in front of his family in the latest violence ahead of May elections, the military said yesterday.
Danny Amor was shot several times in the back with silencer-fitted pistols as he had dinner at home with his family in Masbate province’s San Jacinto township late on Thursday, said Major Harold Cabunoc, an army spokesman.
Cabunoc said politics was believed to be behind the killing, the second poll-related murder in the province in three days. The head of a village leaders’ association was shot dead on Tuesday in Esperanza township.
In May, Filipinos will vote for a new president, senators, congressmen and officials down to the village level. Elections in the Southeast Asian democracy are typically marred by bloodshed and fraud.
In November, 57 people were massacred in the southern Philippines on their way to register a gubernatorial candidate — the worst election-related violence in the country’s history. Members of a rival clan have been arrested but only one has so far been charged over the killings.
In an attempt to forestall violence ahead of the polls, two weeks ago the Philippines initiated a five-month, nationwide ban on carrying guns in public, and at least 357 violators have been arrested so far, including 52 police and military personnel found with weapons while not in uniform or on duty.
On Wednesday, National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa put Masbate province under special police watch because of the province’s history of poll violence. Nearly a third of Philippine cities and municipalities have been identified as potential hotspots for election unrest.
Meanwhile, Philippine authorities said yesterday they were investigating reports that one of the country’s most wanted Islamic militants may have been killed by a US missile strike in Pakistan.
Abdul Basit Usman was among several people believed killed on Jan. 14 in a US drone attack that targeted Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a remote area of northern Pakistan, various media reports said.
“If the reports are true then it is good news for us because the killing of Basit Usman means one less terrorist on the street,” said Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino, military commander in the southwestern Philippines.
But he added: “We still have to verify the reports.”
Dolorfino said Usman was involved in many deadly bombings in the southern Philippines’ Mindanao region, where Muslim insurgents have waged a decades-old separatist rebellion in which more than 150,000 people have died.
The US government has offered one million-dollar bounty for information leading to Usman’s capture, its “Rewards for Justice” Web site says.
The Web site, run by the US State Department, described him as a bomb-making expert with links to the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippines’ militant organization blamed for the nation’s worst attacks.