Bus bomb injures 2 in southern Philippines

An explosion believed to be caused by an improvised bomb ripped through a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday, injuring two passengers, police and military officials said.

The vehicle, owned by the Yellow Bus Line Inc., was on a busy highway in Koronadal city when the device went off at noon, they said. A few minutes later, a second bomb exploded in a vacant lot near a bus station in Tacurong city, but did not cause any injuries.

“There was no threat received by the bus firm. Our experts are investigating the incident,” Koronadal Mayor Eliordo Ogena said, adding that the two passengers suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Maj. Andrew Linao, public information officer for the regional military command, said the explosion was caused by an “improvised explosive device.”

“There’s a directive to all units to intensify checkpoint operations and intelligence monitoring,” he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings, but members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a militant group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, have carried out similar attacks.

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The bombings Thursday happened hours after the Philippine military confirmed that a top BIFF leader, Abu Turaife, and other fighters were injured during an air assault on their encampment in Maguindanao earlier this week. The offensive left two militants dead and hundreds of families displaced.

Turaife is one of the hardcore leaders of the BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 and controls a Muslim autonomous area in the south.

On Monday, the military launched air and ground assaults against Turaife and his men in Datu Salibo town in Maguindanao, displacing more than 1,000 residents.

Acting regional military commander Brig. Gen. Eduardo Gubat said Turaife was believed to have been injured during the assaults. Reports gathered by intelligence sources on the ground said he had retreated into a marshland area controlled by the BIFF.

“There were 17 militants including Turaife who were wounded,” Gubat told reporters.

Officials have blamed militants linked to the group for carrying out two roadside bombings in January 2021 that killed three and injured dozens of people.

More recently, at least six people were injured in April when a homemade bomb exploded aboard a passenger bus in the Parang town. Three months earlier, a 5-year-old boy was killed and six others, including his two younger siblings, were injured in a similar attack in Aleosan town.

In both cases, IS-linked militants were blamed.

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