Police among 13 suspects slain in Philippine clash

Updated 08 January 2013
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Police among 13 suspects slain in Philippine clash

ATIMONAN, Philippines: At least three police personnel were among 13 suspected criminals who were gunned down in a shootout with Philippine security forces at a highway checkpoint, officials said yesterday.
Gunmen riding in three black SUVs opened fire on more than 50 army and police troopers who flagged down the vehicles late Sunday in the coastal town of Atimonan in Quezon province, about 140 km southeast of Manila. Eleven suspects died on the spot, including a police colonel who was a regional commander and two other officers, said police spokesman Erwin Obal. Authorities were checking the identities of two other victims on suspicion they were either former or current members of the intelligence service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Obal said.
Two gunmen jumped out of one of the cars and fired from a roadside canal, said Lt. Col. Monico Abang, who led an army platoon in the clash. The rest stayed in two vehicles, which troops raked with gunfire on a sparsely populated stretch of the highway.
More gunmen fired from a third vehicle, which turned around and fled, Abang said. Authorities didn’t say how many suspects were believed to have escaped.
Security personnel sometimes collude with criminal syndicates to rob banks or traffic narcotics in an underworld that often includes corrupt politicians. Abang said an initial investigation showed that the gunmen were likely members of a gun-for-hire group operating in provinces south of Manila.
“They rolled down their windows and started firing, so we had to retaliate,” Abang said by cellphone from the scene of the clash. “They were clearly outnumbered and outgunned.”
On the side of the security forces, a police colonel was shot in the hand and foot and taken to a hospital.
Abang said the army and police had set up the checkpoint after an informant told police that gunmen involved in illegal drugs, gambling and kidnapping for ransom would pass through Atimonan in mountainous Quezon, where communist guerrillas have a presence.
The latest violence followed two other deadly shootings that have revived calls for tighter gun control in the Philippines, where there are more than half a million unlicensed firearms, according to police estimates.
Earlier Sunday, before the shootout, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte told reporters that President Benigno Aquino III, a known gun enthusiast, would study gun-control proposals with other officials. Among the proposals is a call by anti-gun groups to ban the carrying of firearms by civilians outside their homes.


Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

Updated 1 min 11 sec ago
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Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling and opposition parties on Monday announced the appointment of a former Supreme Court chief justice as caretaker prime minister.
The selection of Nasir ul Mulk comes days after the country’s president announced that general elections will be held on July 25 — setting up what would only be Pakistan’s second ever democratic transfer of power.
“Today is an important day in the democratic history of Pakistan, the name was chosen after consensus was reached,” said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a press conference.
“We have chosen a person whose past is very clear.”
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah added that Mulk, who served on the top court for nearly a decade — including a stint as chief justice from July 2014 to August 2015 — had backing across the political spectrum.
Mulk famously helped pave the way for the removal of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after he was convicted for contempt in 2012 for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against then president Asif Ali Zardari.
The appointment of the widely respected judge came as a surprise because he was not named as a potential frontrunner in recent discussions in the Pakistani press about who would take the helm as caretaker premier.
The current government’s tenure will end on May 31. Power will then be handed over to a caretaker administration after the parliament is dissolved until a new government is formed following elections.
The July polls will bring to a head political tensions that have been mounting since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges last July and later barred from politics for life.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s seven-decade history to be ousted before finishing a full term.
The country witnessed its first democratic transfer of power following polls in 2013, which Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won in a landslide.
The upcoming elections are expected to pit the PML-N against its main rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
Despite the numerous court rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections proving it will likely remain a powerful force.