Ex-cops, soldiers involved in gang behind bus attacks?

- Ramil Bajo () - August 8, 2007 - 12:00am

KORONADAL CITY – A member of the Al-Khobar extortion gang behind the spate of bombings of buses in Central Mindanao claimed that former policemen and soldiers are also involved in the group.

“Our group is composed of Muslims and Christians. We also have members coming from the police and military. They joined us because they are disappointed with the government,” said the man who introduced himself as an Al-Khobar member, in a mobile phone call to the Radyo Bombo station here Monday night.

Reports said Al-Khobar, mostly composed of disgruntled Moro guerrillas, has links with terror groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah which has trained its members in handling explosives.

When told of the anonymous caller’s mobile phone number, an official of Yellow Bus Line (YBL) Co., a victim of the bus bombings, said it was the same number used by a man who called up their office before blasts ripped through two of their buses in the company’s terminal here last Friday.

A Christian preacher was killed and 12 others were wounded in the twin explosions, the third attack against YBL for reportedly rejecting Al-Khobar’s demand for monthly “protection money.” 

No one was hurt in the first attack on an YBL air-conditioned bus last July 7. Eleven days later, a bomb went off in another YBL bus in the Tacurong City public terminal, wounding several passengers.

The man appealed to the public to understand Al-Khobar, saying, “Hindi kami mga masamang tao (at) may prinsipyo ang aming grupo (We are not evil people and our group has a principle).”

When asked by a Radyo Bombo announcer why the group has been targeting YBL, the man said, “Dahil sa aming ipinaglalaban at hindi pa nila ibinibigay ang hinihingi namin (Because of what we are fighting for and they have not given our demands).”

Reports said Al-Khobar has been demanding P500,000 in monthly protection money from YBL owner Richie Yap.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes has reportedly offered “incentives” for information leading to the arrest of the YBL bombers.

As of press time, operations of YBL were still suspended.

Two teams of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion, under the 10th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguin­danao, were deployed to help secure the YBL terminal once the company resumes its operations.

Meanwhile, the YBL management has asked President Arroyo to intervene in their problem with Al-Khobar.

“We are appealing to President Arroyo to help us solve our problem with the Al-Khobar gang which is demanding illegal taxes from our company,” said Olimpio Par, who oversees the bus firm’s operations.

“She has the power to order the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to implement drastic moves against the extortion gang,” Par said.

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