9 women accused of alleged suicide bombings by Abu Sayyaf

Philippine forces arrested nine women related to Abu Sayyaf commanders and militants and the military said they could be “potential suicide bombers”.

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine forces have arrested nine women related to Abu Sayyaf commanders and militants in the south who could be “potential suicide bombers,” the military said on Tuesday.

The women were captured on Friday in attacks on houses in three cities in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu, said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr., who heads the military’s Western Mindanao Command.

The southern province is the Abu Sayyaf stronghold, known for kidnappings, beheadings and rescue bombings.

Troops also seized bomb parts, including batteries, blasting cables, suspect explosive dust and oil, an iron pipe and nails, along with a grenade, cell phones, backpacks and an outline of a suspected bombing area, the military said. an announcement.

“We are always ready to welcome those who wish to return to the fold of the law, but if you refuse to do so, we will certainly hunt you down and prevent them from inflicting damage on communities,” said Major-General William Gonzales, who heads the government forces in Sulu.

“May this serve as a clear message to Abu Sayyaf’s supporters and remaining members,” said Gonzales.

The suspects would face criminal charges for illegal possession of explosives, military officials said, adding that intelligence and surveillance helped troops track down suspects. It was not possible to immediately contact the arrested suspects to obtain their comments.

Among the prisoners were three daughters and a sister of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the leader of Abu Sayyaf who was wounded in a gunfight in July last year and died a few days later in the mountains of the town of Patikul in Sulu.

A few weeks after Sawadjaan’s death, two widows of Abu Sayyaf militants separately detonated bombs in suicide attacks that killed 14 people, including soldiers, and wounded 75 others in the town of Jolo in Sulu. The military then said the bombings, the worst extremist attacks in the country last year, may have been staged by Abu Sayyaf to avenge the death of Sawadjaan, who is believed to have been designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the southern Philippines. .

The United States and the Philippines blacklisted Abu Sayyaf separately, which has been considerably weakened by years of setbacks in battles, military offensives and surrenders, but remains a threat to national security.