TACURONG CITY, Philippines — Three persons were injured — including a child — when a bomb exploded inside a bus at the public transport terminal here around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, the police and military said.
Colonel Danilo Garcia, commander of the Army’s 604th Infantry Brigade, said the improvised bomb went off shortly after the General Santos City-bound Yellow Bus Lines unit with plate number LGC 304 arrived here from Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
The explosion occurred a day after police authorities announced the filing of charges against two suspects arrested in connection with a similar attack against YBL in nearby Koronadal City two Saturdays ago.
“The bomb attack could be a demonstration of outrage by the group, whose two members had been arrested last week and charged in court,” Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio Jr., Central Mindanao police chief, said.
Inspector Maricel Alcala, Tacurong City police spokesperson, identified two of the wounded victims as vendor Kent Antiquiza, 12, a resident of the city, and Melecio Castillo of Mlang, Cotabato.
An unidentified woman sustained minor injuries, she said.
Alcala said two other passengers were rushed to a hospital when they collapsed after the explosion.
Alcala said Castillo and the woman were among the passengers of the bus, contrary to an earlier statement by Superintendent Suharto Tocao, Sultan Kudarat police director, that the explosion occurred when the bus was already empty.
Felizardo Ordan, the bus’ driver, said shortly before the explosion, three passengers hurriedly disembarked as soon as the bus arrived at the terminal.
He said the passengers, all of them women, looked “suspicious.”
“I believed they carried the explosive,” he told Radio dxMS in Cotabato City.
Garcia said the explosive could have been fashioned out of a 60-mm or 81-mm mortar shell fitted with a cell phone as the trigger mechanism.
Like previous explosions in the region, some blamed on extortion syndicates, the bomb was powerful enough to tear off the rear portion of the bus, Garcia said.
Garcia said the al-Khobar gang, an extortion group which has been demanding protection money from YBL, could be behind Wednesday’s explosion.
Tocao said they were still investigating if Wednesday’s blast is connected to the July 7 explosion in Koronadal City. No one was injured in this explosion.
Serapio said the same group was also behind the series of bomb attacks on the Weena Bus Co.
Last month, eight persons were killed and more than two dozen were injured when explosions hit Weena buses in Bansalan, Davao del Sur; Matalam, North Cotabato; and Cotabato City.
Unlike the July 7 bombing in Koronadal, no suspect has yet been arrested in the attacks involving Weena buses.
Police authorities urged bus companies not to pick up passengers in between destinations to avoid similar incidents.
Serapio said bus companies should abide by an earlier agreement that terminals, which have been secured following the bomb attacks in the region, should be the only pick up points for passengers.