Security forces in the southern Philippines on Saturday captured an Indonesian woman they suspect was planning a suicide bomb attack, the military said.
The woman, identified as Rezky Fantasya Rullie, alias Cici, was apprehended in a pre-dawn raid by security forces on the island of Jolo along with two Filipino women believed to be married to pro-Islamic State Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants, the military-led Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.
Rullie’s capture "is a great loss to the IS-inclined faction of the ASG, because Cici, as far as intelligence information is concerned, had agreed to carry out the next suicide bombing," Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, head of the military's Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga, told BenarNews.
“Gathered in the possession of the apprehended individuals were suicide vests rigged with pipe bombs and other improvised explosive device components,” the task force said.
The two Filipino women captured on Saturday were Inda Nurhaina and Fatima Sandra Jimlani, the military said. Nurhaina has been identified as the wife of Ben Tatoo, an ASG commander, who owned the safe house the three captured women were hiding in, the military said.
Philippine troops had intensified a manhunt for domestic and foreign militants and bombmakers after two female suicide bombers killed 15 people in Jolo in the southern province of Sulu in August.
“We have been pursuing foreign terrorist suicide bombers in Sulu after the twin bombing in Jolo town on August 24, 2020,” said Brig. Gen. William Gonzales, head of the task force in Jolo.
“Rullie was first on our list since we have received intelligence reports that she is going to conduct a suicide bombing after the death of her husband,” said Gonzales, referring to the woman’s Indonesian husband, Andi Baso, who the military said died in a clash with troops in Sulu on Aug. 29, but whose body is yet to be recovered.
Rullie, who may be in her late teens or early 20s, is said to be the daughter of an Indonesian couple who blew themselves up inside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel cathedral on Jolo in January 2019. The suicide attack killed 23 people, including the bombers.
Rullie and her husband were believed to have been under the wing of Mundi Sawadjaan, a bomb maker who masterminded the August attack in Jolo. Mundi is the nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the Philippine commander of IS and a senior Abu Sayyaf leader.
Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities have been informed about Rulli’s capture and Baso’s possible death, Vinluan said.
Baso was wanted in Indonesia for his alleged involvement in a bomb attack at the Oikumene Church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province, in 2016, Indonesia’s National Police spokesman, Awi Setiyono, told BenarNews in August. Baso was part of the IS-affiliated Jamaah Ansharut Daulah militant network in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Awi said.
Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales in Cotabato City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.