Extortionists ambush bus in Pagadian-Zamboanga highway; Army, PNP manhunt on

January 17, 2010 11:44 am 

COTABATO CITY, Jan. 17 — Combined elements of the military and the police have been hunting down a band of suspected extortionists who fired at a passenger bus Saturday night in the borders of Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay, the Western Mindanao Command said.

A dozen civilian bus passengers were wounded in a strafing incident at 9:20 p.m. in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino said a Zamboanga City bound bus from Pagadian City was shot with automatic rifles in Sitio Licomo, Barangay San Pedro, Tungawan, Zambonga Sibugay. <P>"The victims are now safe in the hospitals, the other passengers of Rural Transit bus are also safe," Dolorfino said in a radio interview, adding that the attack could be the handiwork of extortionists.

Dolorfino said the bus firm plying the Pagadian-Zamboanga City routes and vice versa has been receiving extortion letters from unidentified groups.

Police are looking at gunmen identified with local politicians who are raising campaign fund through extortion.

Investigation revealed that the suspects were using M-16 rifles in the ambush.

Susan de Dios, one of the passengers, said in a phone interview that most of the passengers were asleep as Rural Transit bus was traversing San Pedro town.

"We heard automatic gun burst and we saw the driver yelling that he was hit," she recalled as all the passengers were told to drop on the floor.

"The incident happened so fast, it's good the driver did not stop the bus although he was hurt," de Dios said.

She said the bus conductor took the wheels until they reached Zamboanga City.

Other passengers were hit by broken glass windows.

Rural Bus operates 24 hours. (PNA)

DCT/NYP/EOF

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