Nine dead in bomb blast inside Philippine bus

The attack on a passenger bus is believed to have been done by extortionists.

Cotabato: Nine people were killed on Thursday when a bomb exploded aboard a packed passenger bus in the troubled southern Philippines, authorities said.

The military and police said Muslim militants or
bandits who are known to operate on the southern island of
Mindanao could have been behind the attack, with extortion a
possible motive.

"The bus company has long been receiving extortion
letters from armed groups operating in the region," regional
military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang

The bomb was apparently hidden inside a bag placed in
a luggage compartment at the back of the bus, and exploded
just after a group of men who were suspected to have planted
it got off the vehicle, Cabangdang said.

Bus driver Arlan Tadeo, 38, who was unharmed in the
incident, said there were 60 passengers on board when the
explosion occurred.

"I saw in the rear-view mirror shattered blood-stained
windows," he said.

Tadeo said parked the bus at the roadside and looked
in the mirror again, to see headless bodies and passengers
raising their bloody arms as they screamed for help.

Tadeo said police and military forces arrived in about
10 minutes and organised local residents, to help take the
victims to hospitals.

The bomb went off on a highway just outside Matalam
town in a lightly populated farming area, largely planted with
sugar cane.

"Eight people died on the spot," said Matalam police
chief Inspector Donald Cabigas, adding another one passed away
in the hospital.

Nine other people were injured, four of them
critically, Cabangbang added.

Armed groups have previously targeted bus companies on
Mindanao island in an effort to extort money, with terminals
as well as vehicles bombed.

Cabigas said the last bus bombing in the vicinity of
Matalam, in 2007, was blamed on the al-Khobar group, a gang of
former Muslim insurgents that had taken to banditry.

The group carried out a series of bombings starting in
2006 to extort money from rural businesses, he said, but added
that police were still to determine whether al-Khobar was
still active in the area.

Provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Cornelio
Salinas said that investigators were looking for a group of
men who got off the bus shortly before the explosion.