MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine police said they arrested a man with two sticks of dynamite, blasting caps and a timing device at a commuter railway station in eastern Manila on Monday but that a second suspect had escaped.
The capital’s police chief, Vidal Querol, told reporters the 44-year-old man was carrying the explosives in a backpack and acted suspiciously while passing through security at the light rail station in Pasig City.
“It’s too early to conclude if he’s a member of any Muslim militant group,” Querol told Reuters. “The bomb was not ready to go but it could be assembled easily.”
Security analysts have warned that small bombs in backpacks were becoming the weapon of choice among Muslim militants after last year’s attacks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 20 people at restaurants packed with foreign tourists.
Police said the arrested man was carrying a driver’s license with the name Zaldy Munda of Bulacan province, north of Manila.
Based on statements by guards at the station, police said Munda offered a bribe of 2,000 pesos ($38) to allow him and his companion to pass without the backpack being searched.
Police said the other man escaped when the guards called in bomb-sniffing dogs and opened the bag.
Security forces in the mainly Roman Catholic country are battling Muslim and communist insurgencies. Several dozen foreign militants with ties to local Islamic groups are believed to be hiding on the southern island of Mindanao.
Public transport has been a target of Muslim militants in the past, including coordinated blasts on trains and a bus in Manila in December 2000 that killed 22 people and the bombing of a ferry near the capital in February 2004 that killed more than 100.
Last February, 12 people died in nearly simultaneous blasts in the capital and two cities on Mindanao on Valentine’s Day.
Three suspects, including an Indonesian militant, have been sentenced to death over one of last year’s attacks — the bombing of a bus in Manila’s financial district.