Islamist militants eyed in Kudarat bus bombing
ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines — Authorities were looking at the involvement of Dawlah Islamiyah in the bombing of a Husky Tours bus at the terminal of this capital town of Sultan Kudarat province at noon Monday.
Col. Dennis Almorato, the spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the bombing could be the handiwork of Dawlah Islamiyah, an Islamist militant group, based on the shrapnel that bomb experts recovered from the blast site.
Almorato said bomb experts found parts of a blasting cap, cut concrete nails, a 9-volt battery, and a circuit board.
Police Col. Christopher Bermudez, Sultan Kudarat police provincial director, said police and military bomb experts also discovered an unexploded improvised explosive device (IED) on the second deck of the passenger bus.
Police bomb experts, who declined to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the IED that exploded was made from either 60mm or 81mm mortar and was activated using a mobile phone, which bore similarities to previous bomb attacks in the region.
The recovered IED that they eventually detonated had the signature of the Dawlah Islamiyah, an Islamic State-linked local gunmen known to have set off bombs on bus units in the area when owners refused to shell out “protection money,” according to police and military operatives.
The double-decker bus, with 16 passengers on board, was bound for General Santos City when it made a stopover at the Isulan Integrated Public Transport Terminal in Barangay Kalawag 2 at 12:15 p.m. Some passengers had just alighted from the bus when the explosion happened five minutes later. Seven persons, including three minors, were injured.
The IED was so powerful that it created a hole in the metal flooring of the bus and shattered its thick window panes, he added.
Police Lt. Col. Richelu Alucilja, the officer in charge of the Isulan municipal police station, said they were looking at the possible involvement of three persons in the bus bombing.
“We are looking at several persons, we are also taking into account that the bus came from Cotabato City passing by Maguindanao towns,” Bermudez said in a news conference on Tuesday at the Isulan police station, which is only some 50 meters away from where the explosion happened.
Bermudez, who heads the provincial-level Special Investigation Task Group looking into the incident, refused to reveal the identities and affiliations of the “persons of interest” while the investigation was still going on. But police said they were already preparing the cartographic sketches of the three suspects.
Bermudez and Alucilja both declined to say if the bomb attack was a retaliation to the death of five armed men during a police operation in nearby Tulunan, Cotabato province the previous week.
Police Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, regional director of the Socsksargen police, said they were still building up the case for the filing of charges against the perpetrators.