The country’s forces have arrested nine women who were related to Abu Sayyaf commanders and militants in the south and could have been “potential suicide bombers, ” the military said.
The women were captured on Friday in raids on houses in three towns in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu, said Lt GenCorleto Vinluan Jr, who heads the military’s Western Mindanao Command, yesterday.
The southern province is the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, which is known for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.
Troops also seized bomb parts, including batteries, detonating cords, suspected explosive powder and oil, an iron pipe and nails, along with a grenade, cellphones, backpacks and a sketch of a suspected targeted bombing area, the military said in a statement.
“We are always ready to welcome those who wish to return to the folds of the law but if you will refuse to do so, we will surely hunt you down and prevent you from inflicting havoc in the communities, ” said Maj Gen William Gonzales, who heads government forces in Sulu.
“May this serve as a clear message to the supporters and remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf, ” he added.
The suspects would face criminal charges for illegal possession of explosives, military officials said, adding that intelligence and surveillance helped troops track down the suspects.
Among those arrested were three daughters and a sister of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the Abu Sayyaf leader who was wounded in a gunbattle with troops in July last year and died a few days later in the mountainous hinterlands off Sulu’s Patikul town.
A few weeks after Sawadjaan’s death, two widows of Abu Sayyaf militants separately detonated bombs in suicide attacks that killed 14 people and wounded 75 others in Jolo town in Sulu.
The military said then that the bombings may have been staged by the Abu Sayyaf to avenge the death of Sawadjaan, who was believed to have been designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the southern Philippines. — AP