Extortion eyed in discovery of explosives inside bus in Tacurong

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 April) — Police are eyeing extortion as behind the recovery of several explosives inside a passenger bus in Tacurong City in Sutan Kudarat province before noon on Thursday.

Supt. Junny Buenacosa, Tacurong City police chief, said Friday the incident could have been meant to “warn and scare” the owners of Yellow Bus Line Inc. (YBL), which owns the bus unit where the explosives were found.

He clarified that the recovered explosives did not have triggering devices, making them incapable of exploding.

“Based on our initial assessment, it appears that the company was the only target. This could be a part of an extortion activity,” he said in a radio interview.

Police operatives recovered the explosives at around 11:40 a.m. Thursday inside YBL deluxe bus unit 9208 that was en route to Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat.

The bus had just left the Tacurong City transport terminal and was traversing a portion of the national highway in Barangay EJC Montilla when it was stopped by policemen for inspection.

Buenacosa said the operatives found an abandoned package inside the bus that contained two live 60mm mortar shells, a rocket-propelled grenade “warhead” and a non-electric blasting cap attached to a detonating cord.

Citing a technical analysis made by the Army’s explosives ordnance disposal unit, he said the planted explosives were not meant to inflict damage as they lack any triggering component or device.

The official said that based on their initial investigation, the explosives were left by three men who boarded the bus near the Tacurong City public market.

He said the three suspects hurriedly alighted from the bus shortly after it left the Tacurong City terminal where it made a brief stopover.

Buenacosa acknowledged that they were able to find the explosives based on a tip from a “concerned resident.”

He said the informant gave descriptions of the suspects and none of them appeared to be among the four bus passengers that they invited for questioning.

As to suspects, Buenacosa said they are still determining their identities and their possible groups or affiliations.

But he said they don’t discount the possibility that the incident could be a handiwork of breakaway rebel faction Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Authorities had intensified their monitoring against possible retaliatory attacks by the BIFF as a result of the all-out offensive earlier launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against their forces in Maguindanao.

“Our investigation is still ongoing so we can’t make any conclusion yet regarding the suspects. We’ve been also coordinating with the YBL management to shed more light on the extortion angle,” he said.

Olimpio Par, operations manager of the Koronadal City-based YBL, initially declared that they have not received any recent extortion demands or threats from any group.

He assured that the company will cooperate with the police with regard to the ongoing investigation.

The company has also adopted various security measures to prevent another similar incident in the future, he added. (MindaNews)