SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 28 Jan) – A bombing attempt was foiled by concerned civilians who immediately reported a suspicious bag left at a bus terminal here early afternoon.
Col. Lito Sobejana, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, said Army explosive experts who checked the bag found a 60mm mortar round, one MK-2 type hand grenade, 250 milligrams of gasoline, two blasting caps, a 9-volt battery and a cellphone.
Sobejana said that the explosive experts were surprised to notice several missed calls on the cellphone connected to the explosive and blasting cap. “There was indeed an attempt to explode it,” he added.
He said there may have been a failure in the bomb’s design, or maybe amateurs were involved. Whatever, Sobejana said he was thankful the bomb did not explode.
It was learned later that there was an attempt to extort P2 million from Husky Bus Company, which is plying the Cotabato – General Santos route, by a group that identified itself only as “ISM” and headed by a certain Abu Sabbab.
Carlo Manalo, head of the bus company’s terminal in Cotabato City, said he received a text message threatening to bomb one of their units two hours after the foiled bombing attempt in this municipality.
Witnesses said that a young looking passenger from Cotabato City disembarked around 12:45 p.m. at the terminal here, leaving behind is gray backpack on the terminal ground.
People in the terminal who saw the bag suspected it was a bomb and immediately called the attention of the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team near the area. The latter confirmed it was a bomb and promptly conducted procedures to diffuse it.
The Army then had the bus stopped in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat, about 30 kilometers away, and had it checked again for explosives, before it could proceed for the two-hour drive to General Santos City.
Sobejana did not reveal more details of the suspect’s profile but said they already have a lead as to the group behind the attempt.
Manalo, meanwhile said, the bus company has been receiving extortion letters, which he reported to the police station in Cotabato for recording on its blotter.
Among the threat messages, Manalo said, include the ISM’s pronouncement to ambush one of Husky’s buses with grenade rifles or even plant bombs in their terminals.
Other messages, he added, include ambushing one of the buses near a bridge so it would fall into a ravine, and planting a 15-kg bomb packed with 20 kg of nails in Husky’s office.
Despite those threats, Manalo said they would continue to work because they also need to feed their families.
The Husky management vows to implement stricter security procedures right away and installing CCTV in the newly constructed terminal building.
Husky has had its share of violent incidents, including the bombing of one of its buses a few years ago in Isulan, and the ambush of another bus while traversing the highway in Maguindanao by armed men using highpowered firearms.