A roadside bomb went off about 10 seconds after a passenger bus passed by early Tuesday in the southern Philippines, the latest attack believed staged by an extortion gang led by former Muslim rebels, police said. Cotabato city police chief Willy Dangane said no one was hurt when the homemade bomb, fashioned from a mortar shell and placed in a cardboard box on the side of the road near a rice field, was triggered by a cell phone just after the bus went by with about 40 people on board.
A bomb hurled into the bus company's terminal in Cotabato early on Sunday damaged two buses but caused no injuries. Another explosion late on Sunday in nearby Kidapawan city wounded nine people and damaged a pedestrian overpass.
A day earlier, unknown gunmen fired at another bus owned by the same company but injured no one, Dangane said.
He said "in all likelihood" the al-Khobar gang was responsible, but investigators also were looking at business rivalries involving operators of mini-buses, which charge higher fares than regular buses.
Kidapawan Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco said al-Khobar also was likely responsible for late Sunday's explosion in his city. He said the group recently tried to extort 250,000 pesos ($5,200) from the city government.
Al-Khobar has been known to carry out bombings when extortion or ransom payments are not made. The group has been blamed for several deadly bombings of buses and business establishments since 2007. One of its leaders, a former Muslim guerrilla, was recently captured. Lt Col Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the army's 6th Infantry Division which operates in the area, said the military will deploy plainclothes soldiers on buses and in terminals to prevent future attacks.