Indonesia says married couple behind church bombing in Philippines

Kyodo News

Posted at Jul 23 2019 07:49 PM

JAKARTA - Indonesian police announced Tuesday that a married Indonesian couple was behind a suicide bombing of a Catholic church in the Philippines in January that killed 23 people. 

National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a press conference that a man identified as Yoga Febrianto, who was arrested in Malaysia last month and affiliated with Islamic State, identified the husband as Rullie Rian Zeke and the wife as Ulfah Handayani Saleh.

The confession was confirmed by Islamist militant Novendri, who had been arrested by police in the West Sumatra provincial capital of Padang on Friday.

The identification process was hampered by a lack of DNA samples to be compared to the couple's remains, he added.

The Philippine government claimed soon after the Jan. 27 bombing of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Jolo island that the bombers were a married couple with Indonesian citizenships.

A source at the counterterrorism police unit told Kyodo News that along with their three children, Rullie and Ulfah left for Syria via Turkey in 2016 to join Islamic State. They were caught, however, by the Turkish authorities in early January and deported to Indonesia.

They underwent a so-called "deradicalization program" run by the Indonesian government to deradicalize IS returnees and deportees, before being allowed to go home.

The twin suicide bombings during a morning mass at the cathedral in the southern Philippines also wounded over 80 others.

Dedi did not reveal the whereabouts of the couple's three children.

The mainly Muslim island of Jolo is one of the areas in the country's restive south where the Islamic State-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group operates.

The group, infamous for bombings, kidnappings and decapitations, has been classified by the Philippine government, as well as the United States, as a terrorist organization.