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Philippines declares emergency after 24 killed

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed two southern provinces under a state of emergency on Tuesday, giving security forces free hands to pursue gunmen who killed at least 24 people in one of the country's worst election massacres.

world Updated: Nov 24, 2009 15:38 IST

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed two southern provinces under a state of emergency on Tuesday, giving security forces free hands to pursue gunmen who killed at least 24 people in one of the country's worst election massacres.

The emergency measures, including checkpoints and random searches by authorities, will remain in place until the president is confident that law and order have been restored in the region, Arroyo spokesman Cerge Remonde said.

The attack on Monday was on a convoy of vehicles filled with supporters of a gubernatorial candidate along with his relatives, including his wife, and several journalists. The candidate, Ismael Mangudadatu, who was not a part of the convoy, accused his powerful political rival of being behind the slayings.

The government stressed that it would go after the culprits, regardless of where the investigation leads.

"No one will be untouchable," Remonde told reporters, calling yesterday's killings "unconscionable."

Officials were still trying to determine the exact number of people intercepted by about 100 gunmen and taken to a remote mountainous area, said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

"We're hopeful that some people escaped, and we're hoping to find them alive," he said.