26 Nov 2009

More bodies found: Philippines massacre toll now 57

6:55 pm on 26 November 2009

The death toll from an attack on a group of politicians' relatives and journalists in the southern Philippines has reached 57. Eleven more bodies were recovered on Wednesday.

The deaths have been attributed to a long-standing political feud between the Mangadadatu and Amputuan families. The Amputuans have close ties to President Gloria Arroyo's government. In the past, Ms Arroyo has relied on the family for crucial votes.

The victims, believed to be mostly women, had been travelling in convoy with a large contingent of journalists on their way to file paperwork on behalf of the Mangadadatu family for a provincial election next year.

A gunfight reportedly took place before they were abducted, the ABC reports. Local reports say some of the dead were passers-by who got caught in the middle of the ambush.

Some may have been buried alive

Filipinos are marking a day of mourning for the victims of Monday's brutal attack. The bodies were found in shallow graves. Some of the victims had been beheaded while others appear to have been buried alive.

Andal Amputuan, the mayor of a local town, is accused of being present during the roadside shootout. He was subsequently reported as having given himself up.

Maguindanao province is under a state of emergency and a high-level police and military taskforce has been set up to find the attackers.