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Asia

Hong Kong angered by handling of bus hijack

The Philippine police have come under fire for their handling of the hijacking crisis in Manila that left eight Chinese tourists dead. Wednesday has been declared a day of national mourning.

Gunman Rolando Mendoza stands at entrance of bus talking to negotiators

Gunman Rolando Mendoza stands at entrance of bus talking to negotiators

The Philippine police admitted on Tuesday that mistakes had been made during the day-long bus siege in the Philippine capital that ended in a bloodbath.

The ordeal began when Rolando Mendoza, a disgruntled former senior police officer who had been sacked armed himself with an M16 assault rifle and grenades to hijack a tourist bus in a desperate attempt to get his job back. After hours of failed negotiation attempts, the police decided to try to storm the bus by firing bullets and smashing windows with sledgehammers.

However, the gunman used his hostages as human shields, forcing the police to wait outside helplessly. Eventually they fired tear gas and a sniper was able to shoot the gunman in the head.

By then eight of the passengers had been killed.

The police team that stormed the bus was reportedly ill prepared

The police team that stormed the bus was reportedly ill prepared

"Obvious shortcomings"

"We saw some obvious shortcomings in terms of capability and tactics used, or the procedure employed, and we are now going to investigate this," Manila's police commander Leocadio Santiago said on local television.

The Philippine National Police said that the assault team had been inadequately trained, armed and led.

A retired police general told Reuters that such an "assault to rescue hostages and save lives should be over in five minutes. The operations should be swift and precise."

The survivors did not understand either. "The Philippine government… I can't accept this. Why did they do this to us?" one woman asked of Hong Kong officials who had flown to Manila.

Amy Ng lost her husband and two daughters. Her 18-year-old son was still in intensive care. She explained that her husband had been killed while trying to shield his family.

She told the local media that the gunman "did not want to kill us. He only shot us after the negotiations failed."

The bus was riddled with bullets after the siege

The bus was riddled with bullets after the siege

Anger in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, flags flew at half-mast on Tuesday and groups of protesters expressed their anger in front of the Philippine consulate.

"We demand that the Philippine authorities conduct a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the incident. They must provide a full account to us a soon as possible," Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said.

The Philippines has said it will send a delegation to Hong Kong to explain the incident in greater detail.

A spokesman for the Philippine president spokesman said there was concern there could be "threats against Filipinos living and working" in Hong Kong because of the "public anger over what happened."

The chair of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Dolores Balladares, also agreed that there could be a negative impact on the Filipinos working in the financial hub. Most of them are domestic helpers.

A chartered flight is expected to ferry the relatives of victims, injured survivors and the bodies of the dead from Manila to Hong Kong later this week.

Hong Kong has issued a travel warning for the Philippines. Over 100,000 visitors travelled from Hong Kong and China to the Southeast Asian country in the first five months of 2010, accounting for 10 percent of the tourists.

act / Reuters / dpa / AFP
Editor: Disha Uppal

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