Philippine forces arrested nine women related to Abu Sayyaf commanders and militants who, according to the army, could have been “potential suicide bombers”.
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine forces arrested nine women who were related to Abu Sayyaf commanders and militants in the south and may have been “potential suicide bombers,” the army said Tuesday.
The women were caught Friday in house raids in three towns in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu, said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., who heads the army’s Western Mindanao Command.
The southern province is the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.
Troops also seized bomb parts, including allegedly explosive batteries, detonating cables, gunpowder and oil, an iron pipe and nails, along with a grenade, cell phones, backpacks and a sketch of an area suspected of bombing, said the army in a statement.
“We are always ready to welcome those who wish to return to the fold of the law, but if he refuses to do so, we will surely go after him and prevent him from wreaking havoc on communities,” said Major General William. Gonzales, who heads government forces in Sulu.
“Let this serve as a clear message to the supporters and the remaining members of Abu Sayyaf,” Gonzales said.
The suspects would face criminal charges for illegal possession of explosives, military officials said, adding that intelligence and surveillance helped troops locate the suspects. The arrested suspects could not be immediately reached for comment.
Among those arrested were three daughters and a sister of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the Abu Sayyaf leader who was wounded in a shooting with troops in July last year and died a few days later in the mountainous areas of the interior of the city of Patikul in Sulu.
A few weeks after Sawadjaan’s death, two Abu Sayyaf militants’ widows separately detonated bombs in suicide attacks that killed 14 people, including soldiers, and injured 75 others in the Sulu town of Jolo. The army then said that the bombings, the worst extremist attacks in the country last year, may have been organized by Abu Sayyaf to avenge the death of Sawadjaan, who is believed to have been appointed by the Islamic State group as its leader in the country. . the southern Philippines.
The United States and the Philippines have separately blacklisted Abu Sayyaf, which has been considerably weakened by years of battle setbacks, military offensives and surrenders, but remains a threat to national security.