August 25, 2010 / 6:29 AM / 7 years ago

Philippines probes blame for botched hijack bus rescue

MANILA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Commanders of a botched rescue of a hijacked Philippines tourist bus have been ordered on leave and weapons from the raid tested to determine responsibility for the deaths of eight hostages, police said on Wednesday.

Philippine National Police spokesman Agrimero Cruz told a news briefing that Chief Superintendent Rodolofo Magtibay, the head of police in the area of the capital where the bloody siege took place, had also offered to stand aside.

The kidnapper, a disgruntled ex-policeman, was shot dead by police and eight of the hostages also killed -- either by the gunman or in the rescue -- prompting anger in China and Hong Kong over the chaotic raid and demands for a thorough investigation. [ID:nSGE67M05L]

The affair is seen as an early blow for President Benigno Aquino, who swept to power this year partly on hopes he could take on corruption, boost the economy and restore the country’s reputation.

On Tuesday, the national police said there had been "defects" including poor handling of the negotiations, and that the assault team was inadequately trained, equipped and led. [ID:nSGE67N0DE]

Magtibay was the ground commander and had taken responsibility for the incident, Cruz said, while four special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team leaders had been ordered on leave pending an investigation.

Wednesday was declared a day of mourning in the Philippines while the survivors, relatives of the victims, and the victims’ bodies were expected to return to Hong Kong.

Police said on Wednesday that three of the dead were Canadian citizens. Thousands of Hong Kong residents sought alternate nationality before the former British territory was returned to China’s control in 1997. (Reporting by Manny Mogato and Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by John Mair)

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