Indonesian couple identified as Philippine church suicide bombers

Philippines soldiers deployed to the area of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, southern Philippines. Twin explosions claimed by Daesh at the cathedral in Jan. 27 left more than 20 people killed and 102 others injured. (AP file photo)
Updated 24 July 2019

Indonesian couple identified as Philippine church suicide bombers

  • Information obtained from two captured militants helped to confirm bombers’ identities
  • 22 people were killed by the blasts at a Catholic church on Jolo island in the Philippines in January

JAKARTA: Police in Indonesia on Tuesday announced that the suicide bombers who killed 22 people in a Catholic church in the Philippines were a married couple thought to be from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. They were named as Rullie Rian Zeke and his wife, Ulfah Handayani Saleh.

It follows months of speculation after authorities in the Philippines said that they believed two Indonesians were responsible for the attack on Jolo Island in January.

Indonesian National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said that officers were able to confirm the information that strongly suggested this through statements from two suspected militants: Novendri, who was arrested in Padang, West Sumatra, in July, and Yoga Febrianto, who was arrested in Malaysia last month.

He added that Indonesian anti-terrorism squad Densus 88 had worked with Filipino counterparts to try to identify the bombers using DNA tests but were hampered by a lack of other samples to compare with their remains.

“They entered the Philippines illegally, so their identities were not well recorded,” said Dedi. “There were strong indications that they were Indonesians because they spoke and behaved liked Indonesians. After we arrested Novendri and Yoga Febrianto...they revealed that the two suicide bombers in the Philippines were Indonesians.

“There are indications that the bombers were from Sulawesi but Densus 88 is probing further into their background and addresses, to compare with the DNA results we have.”

Police said Novendri is part of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a pro-Daesh Indonesian militant group that carried out a fatal bombing in central Jakarta in January 2016 and a series of bomb attacks in Surabaya, East Java in May 2018, including three on churches. With his arrest, police said they had foiled attacks targeting police in West Sumatra, which were planned for Aug. 17: Indonesia’s Independence Day.

They added that he received orders from Syaifullah, a suspected terrorist mastermind who is on the anti-terror squad’s hit list and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan's Khorasan province.

Dedi said Syaifullah had received money transfers totaling more than US$28,000 from Western Union between March 2016 and September 2017 from countries including Trinidad and Tobago, the Maldives, Germany, Malaysia and Venezuela.

“These were the funds he received to move the JAD cells in Indonesia,” he added.

“Densus 88 is remapping former terror convicts, those who were deported and returned from Syria, and hunting down those on the hit list in cooperation with counterparts from the Philippines, Malaysia and Afghanistan. This is our preventive action to thwart JAD’s structured terror attacks.”


Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

Updated 31 min 37 sec ago

Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

  • Devoted dad overcomes strict traditions on female roles in hope of seeing girl become town’s first female doctor

PAKISTAN: Devoted Afghan dad Mia Khan has been hailed for going the extra mile to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Every day, the daily wage laborer, from Sharan city in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, travels 12 km on his motorcycle to take Rozai to school.

And when classes end, he is there for the long and hazardous journey home through tough borderland terrain.

“You know, we don’t have any female doctors in our town. It is my ultimate wish to see my daughter as its first female doctor. I want her to serve humanity,” Khan told Arab News.

Paktika shares a 300 km border with Pakistan’s newly merged tribal districts of North and South Waziristan and parts of Balochistan province, where powerful patriarchal norms still dictate most women’s lives.

But Rozai and her father are determined to buck the trend through her tuition at Nooranya School, a community educational institution built by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

Rozai told Arab News: “We have to travel a long distance and I would like for a school to be established closer to our home. We are often tired (from our journey) when we arrive at school and sometimes, we are late.”

Saif-ur-Rehman Shahab, a representative of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told Arab News that Khan, who has for years taken his children to school on a motorcycle, deserved all the plaudits he could get. Khan has two sons and seven daughters.

“Khan gets his children, specifically his daughter Rozai, educated in a very challenging situation. We have deteriorating security and poor awareness about girls’ education here. Khan is facing acute financial challenges working as a daily wage laborer. I deeply appreciate him for facing all these challenges boldly to educate his daughter,” Shahab said.

Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Khan’s passion was an inspiration to others. “Amid brewing insecurity coupled with cultural limitations, this is a really positive change when people like Khan come out to educate their children, primarily daughters.”

Nooranya School has 220 female students and is one of hundreds of community-based classes and schools, predominantly attended by girls, set up by the committee in various parts of Paktika province.