COTABATO CITY—At least six people were wounded in an explosion in a bus that was carrying passengers headed for home for the New Year break in Sultan Kudarat on Saturday in an attack that authorities Sunday said could be the work of extortion groups.
Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said his men captured a member of Al Khobar extortion gang who detonated a roadside bomb last month in Sultan Kudarat’s Tacurong City and later admitted that the attack was part of an attempt to extort money from a bus company.
Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division, said the firm operating the Husky Bus Line had been receiving demand letters from extortion groups. Husky buses ply the Cotabato-General Santos City route.
Police in Sultan Kudarat said crime groups had been demanding “protection money,” which owners of Husky Bus repeatedly ignored.
The bomb ripped through the rear of a Husky Bus unit as it was in transit near the Isulan rotunda. A bus from another firm, Yellow Bus Line, that was following the Husky Bus unit was hit by shrapnel that shattered its windshield.
The Husky bus went up in flames after the explosion but Balquin said the fire was quickly put out.
The wounded were identified as Hapinat Hilmor Bornales, 36; Delfin Jonathan Salmoren, 23; Dolfo Kevin Venus, 19; and Catequista Rachel Mayornejo, 27, all passengers of the Husky bus. Also wounded were Salutan Robenson Matias, driver of the Yellow Bus unit, and his conductor Sangki Emil Fantilaga.
Asto said the injuries suffered by the six were not life-threatening.
An investigation by the Army showed that the bomb was made of ammonium nitrate (a common ingredient in fertilizers) with nails as shrapnel.
The Husky Bus continued ferrying commuters rushing home for the New Year despite the bombing.
Senior Superintendent Balquin said the blast occurred at about
6 p.m. during the holiday rush.
Analiza Servando, a resident of Koronadal City and passenger, said she felt the bus shake during the explosion.
“It was deafening and broken window glasses flew all over,” Servando, who escaped unhurt, told the Inquirer by phone.
Mayor Diosdado Pallasigue of Isulan said the explosion was so powerful that it mangled a fourth of the bus.
The bombing came amid tight security following two bomb explosions and a grenade attack in Tacurong City.
On Wednesday, three persons were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in Tacurong. It was followed by a grenade attack on the residential compound of Mayor Emilio Salamanca of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat.
The mayor’s bodyguard gunned down one of the suspects in the grenade attack. Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao, with reports from AP and AFP