MANILA (REUTERS) – The Philippine military said on Tuesday (Feb 23) it had arrested a sister and three daughters of a slain leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, among a group of nine women it said were plotting suicide bomb attacks.
Lieutenant-General Corleto Vinluan, who heads the Western Command of the Philippine Armed Forces, said the joint operation had been conducted by troops and police in the southern province of Sulu with search warrants in the early hours of Friday.
“This led to the apprehension of nine female potential suicide bombers who are related to some of the notorious leaders and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said Vinluan.
Abu Sayyaf, which is based in Sulu, has carried out kidnappings, bomb attacks and piracy for decades. Since 2014, it has proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
The military said in a statement the women arrested included a sister and three daughters of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf leader who died in July last year in a firefight with soldiers in Patikul, a town in Sulu.
The women were captured with bomb-making materials including non-electric blasting caps, nails, batteries, mobile phones, and a rough sketch of their plan, the military said.
The authorities view Sawadjaan as the mastermind of a suicide bomb attack by an Indonesian couple on a church in Sulu in Jan 2019, which killed more than 20 people and wounded more than 100, including civilians and soldiers.