Philippine General: 9 Filipinas in Custody were ‘Potential Suicide Bombers’

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2021-02-23
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Philippine General: 9 Filipinas in Custody were ‘Potential Suicide Bombers’ Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte offers flowers and lights candles at the site of a bomb blast in Jolo, Aug. 30, 2020.
Ace Morandante/ Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP

Government forces have arrested nine Filipinas in the south whom authorities allege were being trained as suicide bombers for the Philippine branch of Islamic State, and who are widows or daughters of militants including the local IS leader.

The suspects were arrested in raids last week on known militant hideouts in Sulu, an island province in the far southern Philippines, police announced on Tuesday. Sulu is the home of Abu Sayyaf, a militant group aligned with IS blamed for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including kidnappings and bombings, over the past two decades.

“Those arrested potential suicide bombers appeared to be locals who were either daughters or widows of slain ISIS-inspired Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, sub-leaders or members,” Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force-Sulu (JTFS), told reporters here, using another acronym for the Islamic State extremist group.

The raids were carried out on Friday by JTFS members and local police who seized homemade bombs and bomb-making components, Gonzales said.

Sawadjaan, the acknowledged Philippine IS leader, has been identified as a senior Abu Sayyaf commander. There are reports that he was killed in a clash in Jolo last year, but his body has not been recovered and the military has not confirmed the reports.

Gonzales said police waited until Tuesday to make the announcement because the “would-be suicide bombers” confessed days after their arrest, while being interrogated by military and police intelligence units.

“This is how desperate the remaining terrorists are, willing to sacrifice their families just to get back at government forces,” Gonzales said.

Abu Sayyaf connections

Three of the suspects who were arrested in the raids were identified by police as daughters of Sawadjaan: Isara Jalmaani Abduhajan, 36, Jedah Abduhajan Amin, 28, and Elena Tasum Sawadjaan-Abun, 40.

Elena, the widow of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Walid Abun, was arrested with Firdauzia Said, whose late husband was an Abu Sayyaf militant, authorities said.

The others arrested included a wife of Mundi Sawadjaan, a senior IS commander and Abu Sayyaf bomb expert who plotted attacks last year in Jolo.

Mundi Sawadjaan is a nephew of the elder Sawadjaan. Philippine authorities have blamed Mundi for planning two suicide bombings that killed 15 people last year in Jolo, the capital of Sulu. The bombings were carried out by widows of Abu Sayyaf militants, officials said at the time.

“Our combined forces recovered improvised explosive device-components such as switches, batteries, pipes, concrete nails, blasting cap, suspected ammonium nitrate fuel oil and detonating cord,” said Col. Giovanni Franza, with the Jolo police, who led Friday’s raids.

According to a report by the Philippine news site Rappler, the nine suspects will face charges for illegal possession of firearms.

Meanwhile, the military continues to detain Rezky Fantasya Rullie (alias Cici and Nini Isarani), a young Indonesian who was arrested in October 2020. Authorities believe she was being groomed to be a suicide bomber. She is the widow of Andi Baso who was killed in a clash with troops in Jolo, they said.

Rullie’s Indonesian parents blew themselves up in a twin-bombing at a Jolo church two years ago, according to Philippine authorities. That attack killed 21 people along with the bombers.

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