Philippine Commander: Suspected Indonesian Bomber Says Parents Forced Her to Join IS

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2021-01-15
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Philippine Commander: Suspected Indonesian Bomber Says Parents Forced Her to Join IS Police examine the scene after a deadly bomb explosion outside a Roman Catholic church in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in southern Philippines, Jan. 27, 2019.
AP

A young Indonesian who was arrested in the southern Philippines on suspicion of preparing for a suicide bombing mission claimed that her now-dead parents had compelled her to join the Islamic State group, the region’s top military commander told BenarNews.

Rezky Fantasya Rullie (alias Cici and Nini Isarani) – who is believed to be in her teens or early twenties – was allowed to meet with Indonesian Consul-General Dicky Fabrian on Wednesday, said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, the chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command who attended the meeting.

“The meeting was private, in the confinement areas where Cici is being held,” Vinluan said Friday. “The suspect detailed her forced joining into the militant group.”

Rullie’s Indonesian parents both blew themselves up in a twin-bombing at a church on Jolo Island in the southern Philippines two years ago, according to Philippine authorities. Rullie herself was allegedly being groomed to become a suicide bomber, officials here said.

Last October, Philippine troops arrested Rullie with two Filipinas suspected of plotting suicide attacks and who were married to members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a pro-Islamic State (IS) group based in the Philippine south.

Vinluan said Fabrian wanted to meet with Rullie to make sure “if she is really an Indonesian” by seeing her in person. The meeting took place at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group detention facility in southern Zamboanga city, where she is being held.

“Cici narrated that, at first, she was not aware and then there was this forced marriage to one of the suicide bombers,” Vinluan told BenarNews. He was referring to Andi Baso, a suspected Indonesian suicide bomber in training who is believed to have been slain by Philippine government troops in August 2020. However, his body has not been recovered.

Vinluan said the Indonesian diplomat was also accompanied by Indonesian police and military officials, but they were not permitted to talk to the suspect.

The discussion between Fabrian and Rullie delved into her personal life – “how she came here, and how many times she went to the mountains,” Vinluan said.

Her parents – Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh – killed themselves in a twin-bomb attack at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Jolo town during a Sunday Mass service in January 2019. The bombing killed 23 people in all.

Vinluan said the young militant was brought to Jolo by her parents, and that two of her siblings, a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, remained somewhere in a mountainous area on Jolo Island. The military had earlier said that Rullie was in her teens or early twenties.

Rullie and Baso were believed to have been under the wing of Mundi Sawadjaan, a bomb-maker who masterminded another attack that killed 15 people near the same church last August, officials said.

Mundi is the nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the IS commander in the Philippines and a senior Abu Sayyaf leader. The elder Sawadjaan is said to have been slain in a clash in Jolo, but his body has not been recovered and the military has also not confirmed such reports.   

Vinluan said the Indonesian consul-general told him that Jakarta had committed to deploy more assets to safeguard the porous common frontier between the neighboring countries in the fight against terrorism.

Under a trilateral agreement, the Philippines and next-door neighbors Indonesia and Malaysia have been conducting joint patrols to secure their shared sea borders from militants and piracy.

Freed policemen ordered re-arrested

Meanwhile, a regional trial court in Jolo has ordered the re-arrest of nine police officers for their alleged involvement in killing four Army intelligence specialists who were hunting down suspected IS militants on the island last year.

The police officers, who were dismissed from the service on Jan. 1, were released from custody on a technicality on Tuesday because authorities could no longer hold them after the regional trial court had failed to issue arrest warrants for them.

“We urge the respondent police personnel to surrender – else the AFP, the PNP and other agencies of government will vigorously search, find, and deliver them to court without delay to face trial for multiple murder,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

In late June, the four soldiers had been traveling in a vehicle, which the Jolo police force flagged down. Based on an initial investigation, the soldiers had clearly identified themselves but were still allegedly gunned down by the cops.

Attack in Lanao del Norte

Elsewhere in the volatile southern Philippines, military forces were searching for “unknown perpetrators” who killed a civilian and three Army soldiers in an attack in Lanao del Norte province, the Western Mindanao Command said Friday in a news release posted on Facebook.

“We are still establishing the circumstances and we do not have any other information at the moment,” Brig. Gen. Facundo Palafox, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said in a statement.

“The fourth victim is a civilian and is yet to be identified while the names of the slain soldiers are withheld pending notification to their next of kin,” he said.

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales, and Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel, contributed to this report from Cotabato City and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines.

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