Extortion behind foiled bombing of bus terminal

COTABATO City (MindaNews/29 January) – Extortion was behind the foiled bombing of a bus terminal in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao last Thursday.

A group identifying itself as ISM and headed by a certain Abu Sabbab demanded PhP 2 million from Husky Bus Company, the lone bus company operating along the Cotabato-General Santos City highway, Carlo Manalo, head of the bus company’s terminal, said.

Manalo said he received a text message threatening to bomb one of their units two hours after a foiled bombing in the terminal in Shariff Aguak town.

Shariff Aguak is an hour’s drive from the main terminal here.

Manalo said the bomb carrier who left the bag in the terminal was a young passenger who decided to get off upon arrival at the terminal.

Concerned citizens alerted authorities about the abandoned bag, which, when checked by the Army’s Explovies Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, contained explosives.

The EOD team responded immediately to defuse the bomb.

Col. Lito Sobejana, commander of the 601st Brigade said the EOD team found a 60mm mortar high explosives, one MK-2 type of hand grenade, 250 milligrams of gasoline, two blasting caps, a 9-volts battery and a cellphone.

“Our EOD experts were surprised to notice the cellphone connected to the explosives and blasting cap had several missed calls, which indicated there was indeed an attempt to explode it,” Sobejana said.

He said there may have been a failure in the connection or maybe it was assembled by amateurs.

He thanked those who alerted authorities about the bag, for averting a disaster.

Manalo said the bus company has been receiving extortion letters which they immediately report to the police for blotter.

He said the threats include planting bombs in their terminals.

According to Manalo, he will “just pray for those people who send intimidating messages.”

The bus company is now implementing stricter security measures and will soon install CCTV cameras in strategic areas of the newly-constructed terminal. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)