MANILA, January 28, 2011 (AFP) – Philippine police on Friday released sketches of two men who may have been behind a bus bombing that killed five people in the nation’s financial hub, while offering a reward to help solve the crime.
The men had acted suspiciously and hastily disembarked moments before the remotely detonated mortar bomb ripped through the bus on Tuesday, Metropolitan Manila police chief Director Nicanor Bartolome told a news conference.
“They were seated exactly on the sixth row where the bomb was positioned,” Bartolome said of the two men.
“They were carrying a bag when they got on the bus, but witnesses could not say whether they still had it when they got off. The bag was big enough to hide the 81-millimetre mortar bomb.”
Bartolome released sketches and computer generated pictures of the men, which were based on descriptions given by the survivors, including the bus driver and the conductor.
However, Bartolome clarified that the two were not yet officially considered suspects, but rather were “persons of interest” who may be able to help move the investigation forward.
Authorities also on Friday offered a one-million-peso ($22,200) reward for any information leading to the identification and arrest of those behind the attack.
Bartolome said police were not ruling out the involvement of Islamic militants from the southern Philippines, but that authorities were not yet able to say definitely who was behind the bombing.
Shortly after the attack, President Benigno Aquino admitted his government was warned last year that unnamed Muslim militants had been planning to stage a bombing in Manila.
But he said he did not make the threat public because the security assessment at the time was that the group had neither the capability nor the resources to carry it out