At least five women among 57 people massacred in an attack on an election convoy in the southern Philippines last week may have been raped, police said Thursday.
The forensic findings from the Nov. 23 carnage, blamed on a powerful clan that has ruled impoverished Maguindanao province unopposed for years, also indicated that some of the victims were mowed down with a light machine gun and others shot from a distance of only 2 feet (60 centimeters), said Arturo Cacdac, director of the police crime laboratory.
The convoy was carrying 30 journalists, their staff and the family and supporters of a local politician to file his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao, a position held by the powerful Ampatuan clan.
The politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, sent his wife and relatives to submit his papers after he had received death threats from the Amptuans. He said he thought his female family members would not be harmed.
Twenty-one of the 57 people slain were women. More than half of those killed were journalists.
The scion of the clan and a town mayor, Andal Ampatuan Jr., turned himself in last week and was charged Tuesday with multiple counts of murder. His father _ the family's patriarch _ and six other members also are considered suspects but have not been charged.
Troops have surrounded at least one of two sprawling Ampatuan compounds in the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak ahead of serving search and arrest warrants, which will come after a court order. It was not clear when that will happen.
Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said she will subpoena 11 people, including the patriarch, for a preliminary investigation in Manila on Dec. 14.
Ampatuan's clan, notorious for running a large private army purportedly for protection against Muslim rebels active in the southern Philippines, has been allied with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who received crucial votes from the region during the 2004 elections.
But Arroyo has promised swift justice in the killings and her ruling party has since expelled the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuans deny involvement in the killings.
Maguindanao's 1,092-strong entire police force has been relieved and will be replaced by personnel from other regions to ensure an impartial investigation of the killings, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.
Results of police laboratory tests, released Thursday in Manila, found traces of semen in five of the 21 slain women, said Cacdac, the lab chief. He called it "presumptive evidence (that) they were raped."
Cacdac said two of the women were married, and their husbands will be asked to submit their DNA samples to rule out the possibility it was their semen found in the tests.
The bodies of all five women had bruises or injuries on their genitals, said Ruby Grace Diangson, head of the police medico-legal office.
Investigation of 15 other bodies revealed no sign of rape. Test results on the remaining female body have not been concluded.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.