Philippine police admit to botching hostage crisis

Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:03pm GMT

By Manny Mogato and James Pomfret

MANILA/HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Philippines admitted on Tuesday it had bungled a hostage siege in which eight tourists were killed and which piled pressure on President Benigno Aquino to pull the country out of years of poor management and decline.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said the assault team which tried to rescue 15 tourists from Hong Kong, held on a bus by a gunman, was inadequately trained, armed and led.

There was anger in China and Hong Kong over the chaotic rescue and demands for a thorough investigation.

The gunman, a sacked policeman who was angry at being dismissed, was killed by police. Eight of the hostages were also killed, either by the gunman or in the siege, and one is in a critical condition.

"In an assault to rescue hostages and save lives, the operations should be swift and precise," retired police general Rodolfo Mendoza told Reuters.

"It should be over in five minutes, but what we saw was comical," added the former intelligence and counter-terrorism officer about the rescue operation that lasted over an hour.

Hong Kong advised residents not to travel to the Philippines, and China's Global Times tabloid, run by Communist Party mouthpiece, said the botched rescue reflected a deeper malaise.

"The Philippines is one of the most chaotic countries in Southeast Asia," the newspaper said. "A culture of colonisation, autocracy and rapid changes in government have created all sorts of curious grievances in this country."   Continued...

<p>A monk consoles the relatives of one of the eight hostages killed in a bus siege during a Buddhist religious ceremony at the site of the hostage taking in Manila August 24, 2010. Philippine authorities defended on Tuesday their handling of a bus hostage crisis in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed, but missteps were seen as signs of deeper deficiencies in a country beset by security problems. REUTERS/Erik de Castro</p>
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