Al Khobar owns latest NCotabato blast thru text messages

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/16 Nov) – The notorious Al Khobar group, through text messages sent to the local police, has owned last Monday’s bombing in Carmen, North Cotabato that killed a 17-year-old student and wounded two bystanders.

The explosion occurred around 10:45 a.m. after the speech of Carmen Mayor Roger Taliño during the culmination of the town’s 54th foundation anniversary celebration inside the municipal gym.

Killed was Delsonn Pontongan of President Roxas town; injured were Artemio Rivera and Roni Sabaldo, both residents of Carmen.

Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, daughter of the mayor, was present when the explosion happened.

Authorities recovered from the blast site fragments of an improvised explosive device (IED) fashioned from an 81-mm mortar attached to a Nokia 3315 mobile phone as triggering device.

A texter who identified himself as an Al Khobar member, in text messages to Sr. Insp. Winston Seniel, chief of Carmen police, said more bombs would blow off in North Cotabato if the governor will not heed their demands. The texter used a mobile phone with a Globe SIM.

Seniel said he started to receive the messages an hour after the blast.

He said the texter was asking for the governor’s mobile phone number. But instead of giving the number, Seniel instead forwarded the messages to the governor’s father, who is mayor of Carmen.

Police suspected that extortion could be behind the bombing because previous attacks employed the same style. A few minutes after the attacks, a texter would reportedly contact the police, demanding “protection money” ranging from P50,000 to millions of pesos.

Last Monday’s text messages threatened that should the governor not give in to the Al Khoper’s demands, more bombs will explode.

Kidapawan Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco had earlier admitted that he received extortion messages and bomb threats from the Al Khobar group.

He said that five minutes before the November 2007 bombing of the KMCC Mall, one of the biggest department stores in the city, the texter demanded from him a considerable sum of money.

In a move to pin down the Al Khobar group, Gantuangco admitted having deposited P50,000 in a private bank here to an account based in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur. There was reportedly another deposit made a month later.

Gantuangco has claimed that he used his own money for his deposit to the Al Khobar group. All those apparently went to waste as no Al Khobar member has been arrested so far. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)