Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong hostages killed in Manila bus siege

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Media captionPresident Benigno Aquino said he had been confident in the security forces

Philippine police have stormed a hijacked bus and shot dead a former police officer who had taken a group of Hong Kong tourists hostage.

Eight of the hostages were killed in the bloody siege, which ended with several survivors crawling from the bus while emergency crews removed bodies.

A former policeman armed with an assault rifle had seized the bus in an apparent attempt to get his job back.

Hong Kong's government has criticised the handling of the siege.

In all, 22 Hong Kong tourists were taken hostage along with three Filipinos - a driver, a guide and a photographer.

Chinese officials said all eight of the dead were from Hong Kong.

Survivor's questions

One of the survivors, who identified herself only as Mrs Leung, told reporters that her husband had been killed trying to stop the gunman from shooting other passengers.

"I miss him. I actually really wanted to die with him. But I think of my children," she said, according to AFP news agency.

She was critical of the way police handled the situation, saying: "Why was there no-one to help us after so many hours?"

Hong Kong's leader Donald Tsang also criticised the way the siege was dealt with.

"The way it was handled, particularly the outcome, I find is disappointing," he said.

Radio threats

Police Colonel Nelson Yabut told reporters that the gunman, identified as 55-year-old Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was killed after he decided to enter a shoot-out with police marksmen.

"On our first assault, Captain Mendoza was sprawled in the middle of the aisle and shot one of our operatives. On our second assault we killed him," said Col Yabut.

TV stations in the Philippines carried live broadcasts of the drama, and the footage showed hostages crawling out of the vehicle by the back door as the siege came to an end.

The gunman had spent almost three decades with Manila's police force, but was sacked earlier this year over claims of extortion.

During the hostage crisis, he posted signs with his demands on the bus' windows - the main one being for the police force to reinstate him.

During early negotiations, nine people were freed from the bus, and the driver fled to safety, leaving 15 hostages on board.

One of the gunman's brothers, also a police officer, was drafted in to help the negotiating team.

But as the police operation moved into full swing, the gunman became agitated and told a local radio station he would kill the remaining hostages.

"I shot two Chinese. I will finish them all if [the police] do not stop," he told the Radio Mindanao Network.

"I can see a lot of Swat [special weapons and tactics police] coming in. I know they will kill me. They should all leave because any time I will do the same here."

Dramatic end

The BBC's South East Asia correspondent Rachel Harvey says the gunman would have been trained in police tactics, and would have known what to expect - so the police moved very cautiously.

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Media captionHong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang: "I feel exceedingly sorry for the families"

About an hour before the siege ended, a group of officers approached the bus and attempted to board it by barging in the back door.

But they retreated amid the noise of gunfire coming from the bus.

Soon afterwards, TV images showed the body of a man slumped out of the front of the bus.

Later reports claimed it was the body of the gunman, shot by police.

The gunman had boarded the bus at Luneta Park in central Manila, and the hostage drama played out across the eight-lane road inside the park.

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