Gene Boyd Lumawag

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An unidentified gunman shot photographer Lumawag, of the MindaNews news service, in the head, killing him instantly in Jolo, the capital of the southern Sulu Province.

Lumawag was photographing the sunset at the pier in Jolo on the last day of Ramadan in the Muslim-majority area when he was killed by a single bullet to the head, according to local news accounts. Lumawag, 26, had traveled to Jolo with another reporter on November 10 to work on a video documentary about transparency and local governing practices for the U.S.-based Asia Foundation.

Sulu Province, comprising a group of islands 310 miles (500 kilometers) south of the capital, Manila, is a bastion for the Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf, The Associated Press reported. Abu Sayyaf has been linked to al-Qaeda and has made headlines in recent years with high-profile kidnappings for ransom. The island province is also a stronghold for Jemaah Islamiah, the militant Islamic group.

The exact motive for Lumawag's murder was unclear, and local police and army spokesmen put forward different theories. Army investigators told Mindanews Chairwoman Carolyn Arguillas, who had accompanied Lumawag, that they suspected Abu Sayyaf members were responsible for the killing. The head of the local antiterrorism unit, Brig. Gen. Agustin Dema-ala, also claimed in local news reports that the gunman's description matched that of a wanted local Abu Sayyaf operative.

But in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, local police head, Chief Superintendent Vidal Querol, said that a corruption story the two journalists were pursuing was the likely motive. Local news accounts also speculated that Lumawag might have been mistaken as a spy or member of the military because his clothes resembled fatigues, and he spoke Filipino instead of the local Tausig language.

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