Abu leaders’ wives, sisters, daughters held for being ‘potential suicide bombers’
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines — Nine women — either wives, sisters or daughters of Abu Sayyaf leaders — were arrested by soldiers and policemen in three separate raids in Sulu province over the weekend, the military said on Tuesday.
The women were described as “potential suicide bombers” by Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, citing bomb-making components seized by the raiders.
Jolo Cathedral bombing
Three of them are daughters of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, identified by the US Department of State as the “emir” of the militant Islamic State in the Philippines. Some were reportedly looking after their babies when taken.
Sawadjaan was the mastermind of the Jan. 27, 2019, bombing of the Jolo Cathedral, which killed 23 people. He was fatally wounded and subsequently died in an encounter with government troops in July last year.
Vinluan told Manila-based reporters on Tuesday that the Abu Sayyaf was apparently tapping female relatives because the extremist group was having difficulty in recruiting men as suicide bombers.
“[Female suicide bombers] are also harder to identify and detect,” he added.
William Gonzales, head of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the arrest operations were launched simultaneously on Friday in the villages of Latih and Bangkal, Patikul town, and in Tulay village, Jolo.
Vinluan identified four of the “potential” bombers as Sawadjaan’s daughters—Elena Tasum Sawadjaan Abun, 40; Isara Jalmaani Abduhajan, 36; and Jedah Abduhajan Amin, 28; and his sister, Linda Darun Maruji, 66, also known as Appuh Yayang.
Abun, the widow of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Walid Abun, was arrested in Latih, along with Firdauzia Said or Firdausia Salvin, widow of another sub-leader Mannul Said; Risa Jhalil, wife of Sawadjaan’s nephew and Abu Sayyaf member Nasser Sawadjaan Hadjail; Sharifa Rajani, wife of Abu Sayyaf member Mukti; and Linda Darun Maruji.
Abduhajan and Amin were arrested in Bangkal.
The operation in Tulay’s Zone 3 led to the arrest of Nudsza Ismanu Aslun, widow of an Abu Sayyaf gunman known as Jabar, and Nurshahada A. Isnain, wife of another bandit known as Akram, a trusted aide of the group’s main bomb maker Mundi Sawadjaan, Gonzales said.
It was staged in coordination with the Metro Jolo Interagency Task Group.
Police and soldiers found a backpack readied for fitting with an improvised bomb, Gonzales said.
Also recovered, according to him, were components for making bombs, such as switches, batteries, pipes, one-foot concrete nails, blasting caps, ammonium nitrate, fuel oil, and detonating cord.
The women also allegedly possessed an MK2 hand grenade, a “Jihad Fil Sabilillaah” booklet, several IDs and a rough sketch of a supposed “terror plan.”
Vinluan said the raiders’ targets in Indanan “eluded arrest.”
The nine women were taken into police custody and awaiting the filing of criminal charges against them, he said. The seized bomb-making materials were turned over to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory.
Vinluan said surveillance operations had long been conducted on the women. Citing intelligence reports, he said explosive devices were being assembled in their homes,
“The women, especially the widows, would probably be indoctrinated into suicide bombing after the IED (improvised explosive device) are assembled … It is likely that the women were gradually being oriented on their mission,” he said.
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