MANILA — Government forces apprehended 9 women in Sulu who are considered “potential” suicide bombers, the military said Tuesday.
The women, who are reportedly related to leaders and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), were nabbed on Feb. 19 in three different locations in the island province, said the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command.
Five of them, who were apprehended in Barangay Bangkal in Patikul town, were identified as alias Elena, the 40-year-old daughter of the late ASG leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan; his 66-year-old sister, alias Appuh Yayang; his nephew alias Labah; Firdausia, the widow of ASG sub-leader Mannul Said; and, Indah Wida, wife of one of the militant group’s members.
Sawadjaan was tagged as mastermind of a church bombing in Sulu in Jan. 2019 that killed 22 and left more than 100 hurt. He was also tagged by the US Department of Defense the same year as "acting emir" or head of the Islamic State in the country.
Components of suspected improvised explosive devices were reportedly confiscated from them, which included a 9V battery with battery snap, a non-electric blasting cap, a backpack, suspected Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO), detonating cord, and 2 cellphones, among others, the AFP Wesmincom said.
Two other daughters of Sawadjaan, identified as Isara, 36, and Jedah, 28, were arrested in another area in Patikul.
Seized from them were IED pieces such as a push button switch, a 9V battery with battery snap, a non-electric blasting cap, backpack, suspected ANFO, suspected detonating cord, 2.5 inches G.I. pipe, and 265 pieces of 1-inch concrete nails, the military said.
The remaining two, identified as Nudz and alias Dah, both of whom were married to an ASG member, were captured in Barangay Tulay in Jolo. Authorities confiscated from them a button switch, a 9V battery with a battery snap, a non-electric blasting cap, backpack, suspected detonating cord, 2.5 inches G.I. pipe, one hand grenade MK2 explosive, and a “rough sketch of their terror plan”, the military said.
The 9 will be charged with violation of Republic Act No. 9516 or the Illegal Possession of Explosives, according to the military.
“May this serve as a clear message to the supporters and remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. We are always ready to welcome those who wish to return to the folds of the law but if you will refuse to do so, we will surely hunt you down and prevent you from inflicting havoc in the communities,” Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said in a statement.
- with report from Liezel Lacastesantos