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2 Gunmen Killed at Manila Airport Tower

November 7, 2003

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Two gunmen _ including a former civil aviation official _ were killed in a shootout with security officials after attempting to take over a control tower at Manila’s international airport, officials said early Saturday.

No other casualties were reported from the standoff at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which began late Friday night and concluded early Saturday morning, airport security chief Angelo Atutubo told ABS-CBN television.

Two men brandishing handguns took over the control tower office shortly before midnight and ordered the controllers out, airport general manager Edgardo Manda said.

The pair had shut out the lights and cut telephone lines in the tower, Atutubo added. Security officers tried unsuccessfully to persuade the two to surrender, he said.

``To prevent the disruption of airport operations and flights, we decided to do something,″ Atutubo told ABS-CBN.

After determining the two were ``hostile″ and ``dangerous,″ officers from a special police operations unit staged a raid, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said.

Golez said the gunmen had seized a highly sensitive installation, a move that could have paralyzed air traffic and affect national security and the economy.

The gunmen were identified as former Air Transportation Office chief Panfilo Villaruel, and Ricardo Gatchalian. Their motive was not immediately clear.

The Air Transportation Office is the Phillipines’ main agency in charge of implementing policies on civil aviation, air safety and promotion of air travel.

Flights were operating normally using an alternate control tower during the three-hour standoff, Manda said.

The pilot of one incoming Philippine Airlines flight from Vancouver, Canada, decided to land his plane at the Mactan international airport in the central Philippines, he said.