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Philippines Police Admit Failure In Handling Hostage Crisis

Philippines police have admitted inefficiency and lack of experience in handling Monday's hostage crisis that resulted in the death of eight Chinese tourists, and sacking of four officers who led the bungled hostage rescue operation.

Dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza of the Manila Police District (MPD) hijacked on Monday a tourist bus carrying 21 foreigners, mostly from Hong Kong, and four Filipinos. Police stormed the bus and shot dead the hostage-taker, but not before he opened fire at the captives, killing eight of them.

Hong Kong and China reacted strongly to the attack, and demanded from the Philippines government a "detailed and comprehensive" inquiry report on the tragedy, which President Benigno Aquino agreed to oblige.

Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on Tuesday expressed anger and disappointment at the way the crisis was handled by Philippine police and urged Hong Kong people to cancel travel to the Philippines and those already there to leave as soon as possible.

Philippines and Hong Kong are observing national mourning on Wednesday over the tragedy.

In a statement on Wednesday, police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said the assault team did not have enough "capability, skills, equipment and planning" to handle Monday's bus siege, and added that its leader lacked "training and competence."

He said Inspector Santiago Pascual of the special weapons and tactics team and three of his officers were dismissed for the poor handling of the situation. Also, Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay went on indefinite leave "assuming full responsibility" for failure of the police operation. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo conformed to the police confession while talking to the local media.

President Aquino has promised a "thorough investigation" into the incident and deputed Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo to lead a high-level delegation to Hong Kong to explain what happened.

by RTT Staff Writer

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