GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 Oct) – Police authorities are eyeing extortion as behind the bomb explosion inside a passenger bus in Polomolok town in South Cotabato around noon Thursday that injured 18 people.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, confirmed Friday that the management of Yellow Bus Line (YBL) Inc. based in Koronadal City received a call from a person who claimed to be a member of the Al-Khobar gang several minutes before the blast.
“The caller identified himself as a member of the Al-Khobar and warned that they planted an explosive in one of their [YBL] bus units,” he said.
The official said a secretary of the bus company received the call around 11:50 a.m. or less than 10 minutes before the bomb exploded inside a YBL bus unit with body number 2008 and license plate MWD 296 at a portion of the national highway in Barangay Silway 7 in Polomolok.
The passenger bus, which originated from Koronadal City and en route to this city, had just left the public terminal of Polomolok when the explosion came.
It had also made a brief stop in Tupi town in South Cotabato as part of its route.
Eighteen of the 34 passengers, including a week-old baby, were injured in the blast and were rushed to various hospitals here.
Most of the victims only sustained minor injuries and four of them were still confined at a private hospital here as of Friday morning.
Citing accounts from witnesses, Camba said two unidentified persons boarded the bus along the national highway in Tupi town and placed a package at the overhead compartment near the center section of the bus.
The two reportedly disembarked from the bus at the Polomolok public terminal, he said.
“We’re not discounting other possible angles and our investigators are currently digging deeper into the case,” Camba said.
Based on results of the post-blast investigation conducted by the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, the explosive was placed in red plastic and blue sando bags that were left near the sixth and seventh rows of the bus’s overhead compartment.
Sr. Supt. Jose Briones Jr., South Cotabato police director, said it was fashioned from a PRB 423 fragmentation grenade that was attached to several batteries and a cellphone, which was used as triggering device.
“The grenade’s fuse was removed and modified, and the means of initiation was electric,” he said.
Last month, police recovered a similarly-fashioned explosive planted on a bus unit that was parked at the YBL terminal here.
In July, a bomb also exploded inside a YBL bus unit after making a brief stop at the terminal of Sto. Nino town in South Cotabato.
The Al-Khobar group, which was tagged in a string of extortion-related attacks in Region 12 and the neighboring areas in the past several years, had taken responsibility over previous bomb attacks involving YBL bus units in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.