Philippine army rescues teen son of Indonesian suicide bombers

Roel Pareño
Lamitan, Philippines
Philippine army rescues teen son of Indonesian suicide bombers Philippine soldiers survey the damage at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo town, Sulu province, on January 28, 2019, a day after a suicide bombing killed 21 people.

The Philippine military said Tuesday it had rescued the teenaged son of an Indonesian couple who blew themselves up in a 2019 suicide bombing that killed 21 people at a Catholic cathedral in the south.

Ahmad Ibrahim Rullie, 15, was rescued nearly two years after his younger sister was recovered from Abu Sayyaf militants during a military operation on the same southern island of Jolo.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) said it found the boy on Saturday in the town of Sumisipa after launching an operation to arrest two leaders of an Islamic State-linked faction of Abu Sayyaf.

Maj. Andrew Linao, a spokesman for Wesmincom, said the militants, Mudzrimar Sawadjaan and Pasil Bayali, escaped during the mission but left the boy behind.

The teenager was taken to a local hospital for a medical check up and would remain with the military for a “custodial debriefing,” Linao said.

The military said he was the son of Indonesian couple Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfa Handayani Saleh, who were identified as the bombers of the Jolo cathedral. The Indonesian couple killed 21 people and themselves in the twin suicide bombing in January 2019.

Authorities believe they were indoctrinated by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the former Philippine commander of the Islamic State, who masterminded the attack. 

The military has said that Sawadjaan might have been killed in a July 2020 clash in Jolo, but his body has not been recovered.

After his demise, he was succeeded by his nephew Mundi Sawadjaan, who went on to carry out a series of bombings.

In June 2021, the Philippine military rescued the boy’s 13-year-old sister Sitti Aisyah Rullie after a firefight with Abu Sayyaf members in the town of Patikul on Jolo.

Another sister, Rezky Fantasya Rullie, allegedly had planned a suicide attack but was arrested during an October 2020 raid, the military said.

Asked if Ahmad Ibrahim Rullie was being indoctrinated to be a suicide bomber, Linao said it was possible given his parents' history.

“We are going to determine that in the custodial debriefing,” he said.

Westmincom commander Lt. Gen. Roy Galido praised soldiers from the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion, under the 1103rd Brigade, for rescuing the boy.

“He is still young, and we are hopeful that with proper guidance and counseling, he will be able to walk back on the right path and build a better future,” said Galido.


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