Boy killed, 30 hurt in Cotabato bombing

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—A powerful bomb ripped through a busy bus terminal here yesterday morning, killing a 5-year-old boy and wounding at least 30 other people, police and hospital officials said.

The bomb, an improvised explosive device fashioned out of an 81-mm mortar shell, was placed in a box and left beside a store inside the Weena Bus terminal along Don Rufino Alonzo Avenue, investigators said.

When it went off at around 11:05 a.m., it wreaked havoc on people milling about the terminal and on the store and was heard as far as from 3 kilometers away.

“It was a very loud explosion. I immediately crawled under the table,” a woman who sustained minor injuries told Radio dxMS here.

“Nobody among us noticed the box. There were reports that a woman carried it inside the terminal then left, but almost all the people in the terminal carry bags and boxes. We really don’t know,” she added in the vernacular.

President Macapagal-Arroyo, who was informed of the blast while visiting a torched school in Taysan, Batangas at noon yesterday, condemned the attack and ordered the police to conduct a speedy investigation.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this attack on innocent civilians,” said Ms Arroyo. She ordered a “full investigation so that justice may be brought to bear on the perpetrators.”

The President also ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development, in coordination with local authorities, to assist the families of the victims.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. indicated yesterday that the toll in the blast had reached three fatalities as he ordered the deployment of additional troops in Cotabato City following the bombing.

Military information chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said that while investigators were not discounting the theory that the explosion could have been the work of terrorists, they were also looking into the possibility that it could have been done by extortionists.

“Initial findings indicate that it might be extortion-related as the same bus company was similarly attacked last May 14,” Bacarro said.

June Adam, Weena Bus terminal manager, said that he had been informed by the police minutes before the blast that they had received a phone call warning about a bomb planted inside the terminal.

He said that consequently, using a public address system, he informed the people inside the compound to be extra careful and report any suspicious material or incident. But his warning apparently failed to prevent wide-scale harm when the bomb detonated minutes later.

“We’re still investigating the motives and identities of the bombers. We’re not ruling out a terror attack although the Weena Bus company has been a favorite target of extortionists in the past,” said Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio Jr., the regional police chief.

Serapio said post-blast investigators rushed to the scene to collect pieces of evidence that might be cross-matched with those found in previous bomb attacks in central Mindanao.

The boy who was killed was identified as Adrian Tanggao. At least 10 of the wounded were children selling candies, boiled eggs and bottled water to passengers.

The wounded were rushed to at least two hospitals.

Norma Reyes, chief emergency room nurse at Cotabato Regional and Medical Center, said 27 victims were brought there including Tanggao. At least nine of the wounded were in critical condition, including Tanggao’s 7-year-old sister, Melanie, Reyes said.

Another hospital reported receiving 10 casualties.


Post a Comment