A fire bomb, possibly homemade, exploded on a passenger bus in northwestern Guatemala City on Monday, killing at least six people and injuring 17 more. Witnesses told police that a woman came aboard the bus, placed the bag that presumably held the explosive on the luggage rack, and then got off the bus.
An investigation is underway but representatives of the bus driver’s union said that drivers had received repeated threats of violence from local gangs if they failed to pay protection money. According to Guatemalan news station Noti 7, the gang members were asking for a one-time payment of 60,000 quetzals, or about $7,300.
Attacks on public transportation officials are not uncommon in Guatemala, though past attacks rarely involved passengers. Human rights group Grupo Apoyo Mutuo reported that 175 bus drivers were murdered in 2009 alone. Guatemalan police estimate that bus drivers paid out more than $1.5 million in extortion money to organized crime groups over the course of 2010.