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(UPDATE 2) Digos bus blast kills 7

Posted by Abi Kwok on September 2, 2008

PNP chief: Bus operators ignoring safeguards

By Abigail Kwok, Orlando Dinoy
Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:33:00 09/02/2008

Editor’s note: Repost to correct death toll. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

DIGOS CITY, Philippines — The death toll from Monday afternoon’s bomb explosion here rose to seven after another victim died, the city disaster coordinating office said Tuesday.

Rey Caballero, city disaster coordinating official, said they will come out with the updated list of fatalities any time Tuesday.

Among those who died in the 2:45 p.m. explosion at the public terminal here, which tore a Malita, Davao del Sur-bound Metro Shuttle bus, was a pregnant woman.

Davao del Sur police director Senior Superintendent Cesario Darantinao Jr. identified five of those killed as Marlon Duey, Wella Trimucha, Virginia Flores, Anna Marie Burgar, and Fe Caduan.

Darantinao said 34 victims remain in hospital, several of them in critical condition.

He identified them as Police Officer 1 Garnet Geolina, Maria Tomo, Ernesto Poma, Edna Pamat, Carmen Bagaan, Jena Rose Bravo, Adelaide Jumalin, Eduardo Fernandez, Jaypee Arendain, Falzai Magarang, Lolit Lotian, Israeli Marimon, Zholi Arendain, Jean Trimosa, Mary Grace Nicolas, Cristal Nicolas, Mario Lawan Sr, Rufino Lahadan, Tomasa Albrorera, Teresita Baahao, Leopoldo Fahao, Cresilda Talledo, Dave Melencio, Ansan Burgan, Mario Almazan, Shena Margaret Presbelero, Loreta Almazan, Adorina Penaloza, Loreta Madaub, Anicia Cardenio, Flena Pejano
Shayne Adabo, Ryan Duey, and Roy Pastor.

Darantinao said police are still collecting evidence and identifying the type of improvised explosive device used in the incident.

In Manila, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Avelino Razon Jr. took Mindanao bus operators to task for allegedly ignoring security measures against robberies and bombings.

Monday’s incident involved an improvised explosive device placed on the overhead baggage compartment of a bus of the Metro Shuttle Bus Co., which was waiting for passengers at the terminal, and detonated through a mobile phone.

“Hindi na tayo natuto. Ito na yung dating grupo, ito na yung dating terminal at pareho pa rin ang nangyari. Viniolate [ng bus operators] parin yung ating bilin [We never learn. This is the same group, this is the same terminal, and the same thing has happened. They still violate our advice],” Razon said.

Razon said that, aside from failing to tighten security at terminals, bus operators have also continued allowing their units to pick up passengers along the highways, where bags and other baggage are invariably loaded without being inspected, thus increasing the chances of explosive being smuggled onboard.

On July 24, a bomb exploded, also inside a Metro Shuttle bus parked at the Digos terminal, wounding 35. Three of the injured later died.

As in the earlier incident, authorities are eyeing the Al-Khobar extortion group. Last month, A Metro Shuttle official said the gang had demanded P50,000 (about $1,000) a month in extortion money, threatening attacks if it was not paid.

In Digos, Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas said the Monday bombing “is not the handiwork of the MILF.” Authorities have warned about possible attacks by the MILF after hostilities flared up between the secessionist rebels and government forces early last month.

“The investigation is continuing, but we believe this is the work of the Al Khobar gang,” he said, adding that sketches of the suspects had been circulated.

The gang has claimed responsibility for several bombings in Central Mindanao and authorities claim it has links to the Abu Sayyaf.

The gang is composed mostly of former Muslim rebels who have since turned to banditry and prey on businesses in the south.

However, Razon said they are not discounting other angles in investigating the Monday bombing.

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