MANILA — One mastermind orchestrated the double bombing that killed 15 people in Jolo, Sulu this week and the deadly explosions near a church there last year, a military official said Thursday.
Two female suicide bombers carried out Monday’s attack at the Jolo town plaza, injuring at least 75 people. In January 2019, an Indonesian couple blew themselves up at a Catholic cathedral in the same area, killing 21 people.
“Iyong mastermind same pa rin siya, si Mundi Sawadjaan,” said Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr.
(The mastermind is the same, Mundi Sawadjaan.)
Sawadjaan is a sub-unit leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, who trains its fighters on mounting bomb attacks, Vinluan told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.
"Continuous pa rin iyong manhunt operations against sa mastermind,” he said.
(Our manhunt operations against the mastermind continue.)
Monday’s 2 suicide bombers were the widows of militants who had worked for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf, the military said.
Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana identified the female bombers as Inda Nay and Nanah.
In a text message to reporters, Sobejana said Nanah was the wife of Norman Lasuca, who is considered the Philippines' first homegrown suicide bomber.
Lasuca and another attacker blew themselves up outside a military camp on Jolo in June 2019, killing several soldiers and civilians.
Inda Nay was the wife of Talha Jumsah, also known as Abu Talha, who acted as liaison between Abu Sayyaf and the Islamic State group. He was killed in November in a shootout with security forces in Jolo.
Authorities are checking if Nanah was Indonesian.
The 2 women were the targets of 4 soldiers before they were gunned down by policemen in Jolo last June, said Vinluan.
Troops are coordinating with local officials to foil more potential attacks, he said.
“May mga posibilidad pa rin kasi siyempre habang and’yan pa iyong ISIS, iyon kaşı ang signature nila: suicide bombing, mag-behead sila ng mga mahuli nila o makidnap nila o mga sundalo,” said the official.
(There is still a possibility because the IIS is still there and that is their signature: suicide bombing and beheading those they capture or abduct, and soldiers.)
Military and police leaders have called for martial law to be declared in Sulu, which Governor Abdusakur Tan, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Vinluan rejected.
“With the active participation of local officials down to the barangay level, saka mga individual, hindi na kailangan i-declare ang martial law dito. Mayroon naman tayong templates na naging successful,” Vinluan said.
(It’s no longer necessary to declare martial law here. We have templates that were successful anyway.)
Listed by the United States as a terrorist organization, Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of Islamist militants blamed for the Philippines' worst terror attacks as well as kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.
Suicide attacks were once very rare in the Philippines, but since July 2018 there have been five, including the latest blasts.
With a report from Agence France-Presse