Manila, Philippines — Gunmen killed at least 21 people, a dozen journalists reported among them, in the Philippines on Monday in what a presidential adviser called the most “gruesome massacre of civilians” in recent history.
Some of the bodies were beheaded, according to Filipino media. The details suggest the daytime abductions were politically motivated, and the military has said the gunmen were loyal to the province’s incumbent governor.
Those killed include a gubernatorial candidate’s wife and one of his sisters, according to two of his family members who spoke on local television. The death toll also included at least 12 journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders, a media freedom organization.
Ibrahim Mangudadatu wanted to run for governor of Maguindanao province in May but had received threats he would be killed if he filed the candidate nomination papers himself. He sent his wife and sisters to file the papers, thinking “that women would have some protection,” journalist Maria Ressa .
“It was supposed to be a media event,” Ressa said, “[to] let the public know that this politician would run for governor.”
Army officials said 100 gunmen surrounded the group of about 40 people — many local journalists and women among them — and ordered them out of their vehicles. They took the hostages to a mountainous region, officials said.