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  26 Die in Philippines Bus Explosion

The Associated Press
Friday, Feb. 25, 2000; 2:47 p.m. EST

OZAMIS, Philippines –– Troops stationed along roadways searched vehicles for explosives Friday after a bomb planted on a crowded bus killed at least 26 people and injured dozens more.

The bus was riding a ferry across Pangil Bay to Ozamis in the southern Philippines. Driver Mario Labor said the bomb, which was planted four seats behind him, exploded as the ferry was about 20 yards from the pier at Ozamis port. Passengers jumped into the sea in panic.

The ferry's skipper managed to dock, allowing firefighters to extinguish the flames. The ferry and seven of its 20 vehicles were damaged, witnesses said. Dozens of badly burned victims were taken to hospitals, said Morpheus Agot, a member of the Misamis Occidental provincial board.

Police Chief Joel Bation said 26 people were confirmed dead as of Friday evening. Many of the bodies were found piled on top of each other in the rear of the bus. The victims apparently had been trying to escape the flames.

The bus, owned by the Super Five Express bus company, started in Cagayan de Oro city in the southern Philippines. It traveled about 70 miles southwest to Kolambogan in Lanao del Norte province, where it boarded the ferry to Ozamis.

At about the same time as the ferry explosion, a second bomb went off in another bus owned by the same company, injuring at least four people, police said. No other details were immediately available. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Army Brig. Gen. Narciso Abaya ordered troops to set up checkpoints along roads to search vehicles and passengers for bombs.

In January, another Super Five bus was seized and burned by suspected Muslim separatist rebels in Lanao del Norte, apparently to avenge the death of a rebel commander's son who died after being hit by one of the company's buses last year. Extortion gangs and Communist and Muslim rebels have been blamed for several previous bus bombings in the southern Philippines.

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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