Extort gang behind bus blast in SK – police

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – Police authorities tagged on Tuesday a notorious extortion group reportedly operating in parts of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region as behind the bomb attack on a passenger bus in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat last Saturday night that injured six people.

Chief Supt. Alex Paul Monteagudo, Region 12 police director, said the results of their initial investigation showed that the bomb explosion at a Husky bus unit appeared to be the handiwork of alleged members of the Al-Khobar (nee Alcobar) extortion gang.

He said they are currently gathering additional intelligence information to establish the identities of the suspects and their possible whereabouts.

“Our investigation is still ongoing but the circumstances and initial evidences we gathered point to the group as behind this attack,” Monteagudo said.

The Husky bus unit, which is operated by local firm Biocoop Husky Transport Services, was passing by Isulan town’s rotunda when an improvised bomb planted on its baggage compartment exploded at around 6 p.m. Saturday.

The explosion, which injured six passengers and bystanders, burned the rear portion of the Husky bus and damaged a tailing passenger unit of Yellow Bus Line Inc.

A report from the Sultan Kudarat police’s explosives ordnance disposal team noted that the explosive was made of ammonium nitrate, fuel oil and cut nails.

Supt. Roel Surmese, Isulan police chief, said the bus company had received numerous extortion demands prior to the Saturday attack.

The group, which he did not identify, allegedly threatened to launch bomb attacks on the firm’s bus units should it refuse to heed their demands, he said.

Meantime, aside from the Husky bus attack, Monteagudo said they were looking at the involvement of the Al-Khobar in the recent bomb explosions in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat and other areas in Region 12.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

On Dec. 26, a bomb blast rocked the commercial district of Tacurong City, leaving three people injured.

A string of bomb attacks targeting bus units of Husky, Yellow Bus and Rural Transit occurred in the area last year, causing millions in damages.

Some of the attacks were linked to the Al-Khobar, which had claimed responsibility in previous bomb attacks in this city and nearby Koronadal City. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)