MANILA (AFP): Police were in a standoff Monday (March 2) with a "disgruntled" former security guard who shot at least one person and took about 30 others hostage at a shopping mall in the Philippine capital, officials said.
Workers and customers were evacuated from the V-Mall shopping centre in Manila early Monday after gunshots rang out and officers wielding assault rifles rushed to the scene.
"We have confirmed reports of... a hostage-taking of some of our employees by a former... security guard," the mall management said in a statement.
The Philippines' malls are centres of life that include everything from restaurants and shops to churches and medical facilities. The building was full when the violence began.
The mayor of the section of Manila that is home to the mall told reporters the "disgruntled" ex-guard had a pistol and claimed to have a grenade, but that had not been confirmed.
"At present we are unable to determine exactly how many are inside. Our estimate is around 30 people," said San Juan city mayor Francis Zamora.
He added the hostages were being held in the mall's administrative offices and at least one person was shot. The victim was rushed to hospital and was in stable condition.
Witness John Paul Buenavista told AFP he saw a wounded person -- believed to be a guard at the mall -- being put into a wheelchair and whisked away.
"We heard three gunshots. Then we saw people running, saying they saw someone getting shot," he said.
Authorities are negotiating with the hostage taker, who has demanded to speak with other guards and the media.
"We'll do our best to settle this issue peacefully," Zamora said, adding the hostage taker was upset over his treatment by his employer.
Manila was the site of a high-profile 2010 hostage taking that ended in the deaths of eight tourists from Hong Kong.
That day-long ordeal started when an ex-police officer, armed with an M-16 assault rifle, hijacked a bus near Rizal Park, a popular tourist destination just a few blocks from police headquarters, in a desperate bid to get his job back.
Negotiations broke down after nightfall when the ex-officer began shooting passengers, prompting commandos to lob tear gas inside the bus before storming it and firing dozens of bullets into the vehicle. - AFP
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