Same group behind attacks on Mindanao buses

Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, said they reached at the conclusion after determining the cellular phone number used by the suspects in calling the management of Yellow Bus Line, Inc. matched the one used in contacting Weena Bus company.

A Koronadal-bound bus from Tacurong City of the Yellow Bus was bombed late Saturday afternoon in Koronadal City but no one among the passengers was harmed since they had all disembarked when the bomb went off.

Last month, Weena’s buses in Cotabato City and Bansalan, Davao del Sur were also attacked, killing eight persons and wounding more than a dozen others.

Yellow Bus is the largest transport operator in the Davao-General Santos-Koronadal route while Weena dominates the Davao-Cotabato road.

Kiunisala identified the group behind the attacks on the bus companies as Alcobar whose motive is to extort protection money from the owners.

The same cellular phone number was used by the suspects to call the management of Yellow Bus and Weena to demand protection money,” he said.

Kiunisala claimed that Alcobar demanded P2 million from Yellow Bus, a figure which the firm’s operation manger Olimpio Par earlier neither confirmed nor denied.

At least two sources—a company employee and a friend of the owner’s son –said the extortion demand was also P2 million.

Weena Bus earlier confirmed that Alcobar demanded at least P2 million for protection money.

Kiunisala said intelligence agents are trying to determine whether the Alcobar group is composed of the dreaded Pentagon Gang, a notorious lawless group operating in Central Mindanao known for their kidnapping activities.

Pentagon is allegedly headed by Alonto Tahir, whom the military claimed to have killed in Maguindanao province three years ago.

But Maguindanao residents in the towns of Sultan sa Barongis and Salipada K. Pendatun, where Tahir was said to have been killed during a military bombardment, claimed he was never killed and “in fact is just in the vicinity.”

Tahir, a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who was rescued by around 100 heavily armed men in a daring raid at this city’s jail in 2001, is reportedly sick of diabetes.

Maybe the Pentagon gang has changed their name to Alcobar. Our intelligence community is looking into this possibility,” Kiunisala said.

He said the bomb planted on the Yellow Bus unit last Saturday did not “intend to kill people.”

Our police and military bomb experts did not recover shrapnel like nails. In 10 meters, you cannot be killed,” he added.

But Kiunisala said the explosive device contained half a pound of TNT or trinitrotoluene, a bomb-making component and that the bomb was detonated using a cellular phone.