MANILA -- The military is investigating the suspected blood ties of 2 women who carried out a deadly double bombing in Jolo, Sulu this week and the policemen who earlier gunned down 4 soldiers, an official said Thursday.
The military had said Monday's 2 suicide bombers -- widows of militants who had worked for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf -- were being hunted down by 4 soldiers before they were shot dead by 9 policemen last June.
While authorities "have no evidence yet" that the women and the policemen were relatives, "we cannot discount the possibility", said the military's Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr.
"Halos lahat naman ng tao rito sa Jolo magkakamag-anak lang," he told ANC. "We are still looking at every angle."
(Almost everyone here in Jolo are relatives.)
Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana identified Wednesday 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.
Vinluan said he supports the call of Senators Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon for the suspension of the 9 policemen involved in the fatal shooting of the soldiers tracking down the suspects.
"Other policemen there in Jolo, titingnan pa rin natin dahil may mga matitino pa rin," he said. "[The] victims were my men so it is expected that I am shattered why the 9 suspects are still not incarcerated."
(As to the other policemen there in Jolo, we're still considering that because some of them are still good.)
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 barangay level, including civilians, we no longer need declaration of martial law," said Vinluan.
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