BLAST SITE. Police officers respond to a blast in the North Cotabato town of Tulunan Jan. 27, 2021. The explosion killed a fruit vendor and injured two others. (Photos courtesy of former North Cotabato Board Member Socrates Piñol)

MANILA – Murder charges have been filed against eight identified members of the Al Khobar group allegedly behind the North Cotabato explosion last month, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Sunday.

PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the results of the probe conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led to the filing of murder and frustrated murder complaint against Salahudin Hassa, Lutre Aman, Tasly Saligan, Norodrin Haman, Datu Ali Camsa, Sandali Sindatok, Jordan Kamad, and Tahir Abubakar, all residents of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao and members of Dawlah Islamiya-Hassan Group, before the North Cotabato provincial prosecutor on March 5.

“We have ongoing police operations to scour the areas in Mindanao in pursuit of this terrorist group,” Sinas said in a statement.

Al Khobar is an organized crime group formed out of a dismantled group operating under the Special Operations Group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the early 2000 and was responsible for extortion and bombing activities in Central Mindanao.

Sinas said the explosion incident happened on Jan. 27, 2021 after a bus of the Yellow Bus Lines was about to drop a passenger along the national highway near an abandoned ticket booth located in Barangay Sibsib, North Cotabato.

Gina Paunon, a 53-year fruit vendor of Purok 1, F. Cajelo, Tulunan, Cotabato succumbed to blast injuries which also hurt Ryan Panibayo and Lorester Hilberto, also both from Tulunan, North Cotabato.

The explosion, according to investigators, was caused by a remotely detonated improvised explosive device.

Sinas said many witnesses gathered through the collective efforts of the intelligence and investigating units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, North Cotabato Police Provincial Office and other national support units identified the perpetrators through the rouges’ gallery of suspected groups responsible for the explosion. (PNA)