The bombing of Yellow Bus Line, Inc. (YBL) bus number 15 came just 11 days after a similarly built improvised explosive device exploded inside another YBL unit in nearby Koronadal City.
Supt. Joel Limson, Tacurong police chief, tagged an extortion ring called the Alcobar group as behind the bombing. The same group, he said, claimed responsibility over the series of bombings last month on another transportation company, Weena Bus Lines.
There were conflicting names as to the names of the victims. Police operatives at the bomb site identified the injured as Kent Antiqueza, 12; Jerry Castillanes, 23; and Euname Silva, 17.
SPO2 Nestor Aguilar, police investigator, identified the victims as Melecio Caspillo, a passenger; vendor Kent Antiquiza, 12, who was seated at a nearby restaurant; and an unidentified woman.
Col. Danilo Garcia, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade based in President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat, said the victims were Melecio Castillo, 23; Hermogenes Morante Absalon, 37; and Ken Antiquiza.
Limson said the bomb in today’s explosion was placed at the rear part of the bus, a similar approach to the Koronadal attack last July 7.
He said YBL received an extortion letter from the Alcobar group last month, which was also confirmed by the YBL management.
Olimpio Par, YBL operations manager, said in a radio interview this afternoon that a man who identified himself as “Alkobar” called up their office around 9:15 this morning. He said the caller reportedly asked how their “transaction” is doing.
Par said the caller was apparently referring to their demand for payment of a big amount of money in exchange for “some protection.”
He earlier confirmed that two weeks before the July 7 explosion, they received a call from a supposed member of the group who demanded the immediate payment of a hefty amount of money. The group allegedly threatened to attack their buses if they refuse to cooperate.
Limson said the explosive “was assembled in a manner not to inflict maximum damage.”
He said an unidentified woman in her 40s, who disembarked before the bus reached the terminal, may have planted the bomb. “The bomb was left underneath the seat where that woman was previously seated and she was the only one who took a seat at the back portion of the bus,” Limson pointed out.
But bus conductor Jimmy Alojado said it is not so. “All our female passengers were students. There was nothing suspicious in all their actions,” he claimed.
Limson said they could not yet identify the type of bomb used by the suspects but he said they initially recovered metal fragments and components of a cellular phone, suggesting the bomb must have been triggered through a mobile phone.
The bus, coming from Isulan also in Sultan Kudarat, was already parked at the Tacurong terminal for 10 minutes when the explosion took place, Alojado said. The bus, he said, was bound for Koronadal City, which is celebrating its 41st foundation anniversary today in festivities dubbed as the T’nalak Festival.
Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu, who rushed to the site, said they are planning to put up security cameras in public places in the province. “This will help authorities in the post investigation. The cameras might record the suspects,” he said.