COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Authorities have identified 2 of the suspects in the bombing of a Rural Transit bus in Carmen town, North Cotabato last Wednesday morning.
Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) Western Mindanao Chief Gen. Felicisimo Khu said on Thursday that a witness linked 2 members of the Al-Khobar extortion group to the blast.
Khu said the witness saw one of the suspects carrying the improvised explosive device (IED) and placed it inside the bus while an accomplice served as a lookout.
The alleged bombers also rode the bus before the bomb went off near the Carmen terminal.
Gen. Khu has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Kabacan to look at a closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage inside the Kabacan terminal.
The PNP is now preparing charges against the suspects after the witness described them before police investigators.
Aside from extortion, authorities are also eyeing business rivalry as a possible motive.
Lack of security
Khu said he has reprimanded the police chief of Kabacan PNP as well as the bus driver and conductor for not conducting a thorough inspection of the bus.
He said security was lax despite an intelligence report last April 3 saying that Rural Transit but might be a target.
The DIPO chief has instructed all PNP units to conduct thorough inspections in buses and other vehicles in national highways.
Two checkpoints were put in place in North Cotabato going towards Cagayan de Oro City where bus passengers are required to undergo inspection.
The official also said bus companies should ensure the security of the passengers.
The bomb that went off Wednesday morning was a cellphone-triggered bomb.
The explosion left 2 people dead and 17 others wounded.