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Manila tourist bus siege shoot-out

Police: Tourists may have been killed by friendly fire

Richard Shears  Sep 09, 2010

Some of the terrified tourists held hostage on a bus in the Philippines may have been killed by police trying to rescue them, officials admitted for the first time today.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong - including two British passport holders - died in a hail of bullets on August 23 as the crazed policeman holding them hostage let loose with his M16 rifle and a pistol as police closed in on the vehicle, also firing guns.

The hostage-taker, disgruntled cop Rolando Mendoza, was killed in the doorway of the bus, but by then many of the passengers were dead or dying from gunshot wounds.

In a sensational confession, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said police guns may have killed some of the passengers.
'There is a big possibility that there was friendly fire,' she said, adding that experts were convinced some bullets could not have been fired by Mendoza.

She also pointed out that forensic reports on some of the dead did not match the account of the driver of the bus, who escaped and told police that the gunman had shot them at close range.

'What is crucial, occupying our minds, is if the shots were made at close range, these are not consistent with forensic findings.'
Pressed on the 'friendly fire' possibility, Miss de Lima said: 'We are not focusing on that, but we should never miss that. Otherwise our report will be less than thorough.'

When an inquiry first got under way into what senior officers admitted had been a bungled operation in which they had missed several opportunities to shoot the hostage-taker, officials insisted the bullets that killed the tourists were all fired from Mendoza's guns.
They were adamant that while bullets were fired into the bus by police snipers and an assault unit, the shots did not result in fatalities.
'Where did the shots come from - the hostage-taker, the assault team, or other teams?' asked Miss de Lima, raising the possibility that other police units that raced to the area could have fired into the bus after it came to a halt in the centre of Manila.

Officials admit that ballistics experts have been able to show that some of the bullets that hit the bus were fired from a distance further than the location of the snipers, virtually confirming that another police unit had also targeted the vehicle.

President Benigno Aquino has been so shocked by the incident that he has promised to form an elite force based on Britain's SAS to handle future hostage incidents.

'The training and maintenance of these elite forces is expensive,' he said.

'England, for all its wealth, has only 200 people in their SAS, who are trained to that level. We will copy to a degree the formation of that national unit.'

Philippines officials are awaiting a report from Hong Kong investigators who have flown to the country to inspect the bus and all the weapons involved.

Police: Tourists may have been killed by friendly fire
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