Philippine authorities plan to charge and deport a young Indonesian woman who allegedly was groomed as a suicide bomber, officials said as police on Monday announced additional arrests of suspected Muslim militants.
Journalists have not been granted access to Rezky Fantasya Rullie (alias Cici and Nana Isirani), who has been identified as the daughter of an Indonesian couple who blew themselves up at a church on southern Jolo Island last year. She was arrested Saturday on Jolo with two Filipinas suspected of preparing for a suicide mission and believed to be married to members of the pro-Islamic State (IS) Abu Sayyaf Group.
“A deportation case has been recommended to be filed against Rullie for terrorism, being an illegal entrant, and for undesirability, apart from the criminal charges that she faces,” Melody Gonzales, head of Bureau of Immigration’s Intelligence Mindanao Task Group, said in a statement issued Sunday.
Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the chief of Philippine National Police, said Rullie is believed to be five months pregnant and was planning to launch a bomb attack after giving birth, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency on Monday.
“That’s the information. We were lucky and fortunate we were able to arrest (her),” Cascolan said. “She’s still in Sulu. We still have to get the results about an inquiry on her nationality and at the same time we still have to take some information because that’s part of the procedure and we have to look after her physical health.”
Cascolan, who was in the southern Philippines over the weekend on a security assessment trip, said the arrest of Rullie and her companions had likely prevented another bomb attack and saved dozens of lives.
Gonzalez said Rullie was captured after months of surveillance as she was allegedly plotting her attack in Jolo, the main island in the Sulu chain that is a hotbed of Abu Sayyaf activity. Arrested alongside her were Inda Nurhaina and Fatima Sandra Jimlani, both wives of ranking Abu Sayyaf members, officials said.
“A suicide vest, bombs, and other improvised explosive device-making components were recovered from the trio,” Gonzales said, adding that Rullie was a “high value target” in government’s fight against terrorism.
Investigators identified Rullie, who could be in her late teens or early 20s, as the daughter of a couple who killed 21 people and themselves in a January 2019 suicide attack.
Rullie’s parents, Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh, carried out the twin bombing at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on Jolo, Indonesian National Police spokesman Awi Setiyono confirmed Monday, but he could not immediately say that she was the woman in Philippine custody.
“We haven’t received the information yet,” Awi told BenarNews.
He said her family tried to join IS in Syria but Turkish authorities had rejected them in early 2017.
“They then illegally entered the southern Philippines via Malaysia with the help of Andi Baso in 2018,” he said.
Philippine intelligence operatives identified Rullie as the wife of Baso, an Indonesian suicide bomber-in-training who is believed to have been killed by troops on Aug. 29. His body has not been recovered.
Rullie and Baso were believed to have been under the wing of Mundi Sawadjaan, a bomb maker who masterminded a twin-suicide bomb attack, also on Jolo, that killed 15 in August. Mundi is the nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the Philippine IS commander and a senior Abu Sayyaf leader.
The couple had tried to escape from Sulu province with Mundi Sawadjaan a few days after the Aug. 24 bombing, but failed, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency reported earlier.
Abu Sayyaf arrests
Meanwhile, authorities on Monday announced that police and military troops had captured three Abu Sayyaf militants who allegedly acted as “financial conduits” between the IS and Mundi Sawadjaan, Cascolan said.
The three arrested Friday were identified as Kadija Sadji, 31, Abdulman Sarapuddin Tula, 32, and Jailani Al-Rafee Sakandal, 31. They were arrested for “illegal possession of components for an improvised explosive device,” the police chief said.
“Also confiscated from the trio were two hand grenades, a .45-caliber pistol, several rounds of rifle ammunition, and a black ISIS flag,” Cascolan said, using a different acronym for the Islamic State.
He said Tula had been identified as Sawadjaan’s procurement and logistics supply man on Jolo.
Sadji is believed to be the wife Al Asgar, son of the late Abu Sayyaf founder, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani. She allegedly belonged to the same financial conduit cell with two women who were arrested last year and in June, respectively, Cascolan said.
Sakandal, an apprentice seaman with the local coast guard, was at the house during the raid and authorities are in the process of determining his role, he said.
Also in Zamboanga on Sunday, police and military teams captured Hassan Anang Mohammad, who was identified as an Abu Sayyaf militant involved in the kidnapping and beheading of Doroteo Gonzales in May 2009, the military said.
Ronna Nirmala in Jakarta, and Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales in Cotabato, Philippines, contributed to this report.