Manila (Reuters) - An explosion ripped through a commuter bus in the southern Philippines on Tuesday, killing nine people and wounding 17, security officials said, blaming the attack on a splinter group of Muslim rebels.
A 45-year conflict that killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million ended in March, with a peace deal signed by the government and Islamic rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the island of Mindanao.
The bus was headed to the major commercial center of Cagayan de Oro City in the island's north on Tuesday, when the bomb exploded at about 5.45 p.m., an army spokesman said.
"We are still investigating this incident," said the spokesman, Major Christian Uy, adding that the dead and injured had been taken to a nearby hospital.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a rebel group that has split from the MILF, was responsible for the attack, one police officer said.
"They were extorting money from the bus company," said the officer, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
"They were trying to send a message because they could not get what they wanted."
A spokesman for the rebels did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
The bus came from Wao in Lanao del Sur province, a Muslim community. The government has promised to grant Muslims an autonomous area in the south in exchange for the rebels' surrender of weapons and the disbanding of their guerrilla army.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato: Editing by Clarence Fernandez)