MANILA: Philippine authorities on Wednesday identified two female suicide bombers behind the deadly attacks in Sulu province two days ago that killed 17 people and wounded 75 others, including children.
Eight soldiers and a police officer were among victims of the suicide attacks carried out by the women, both widows.
Philippine army chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana identified the bombers by their aliases — “Nanah” from Basilan province, and “Inda Nay” from Sulu, who later lived in Tawi-Tawi.
Sobejana said Nanah was the wife of Norman Lasuca, thought to be the first Filipino suicide bomber, while Inda Nay was the wife of Talha Jumsah, also known as Abu Talha, a bomb expert who served as the finance conduit between Daesh and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Lasuca and an accomplice were behind an attack on an army counterterrorism unit detachment in Indanan, Sulu, in June last year, while Jumsah was killed in a military operation in the same province in November.
A military official who declined to be named said that Nanah may have come from Indonesia, adding that she was a relative of the Indonesian couple involved in the January 2019 suicide attack on Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in the island town of Jolo, which killed 23 people.
“Technically, they are Daesh followers. We believe Nanah arrived in Mindanao at the same time as the Indonesian suicide bombers involved in the explosions at the Jolo cathedral. But this is speculation until we complete forensics and DNA testing,” the official said.
Abu Sayyaf bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan, a nephew of ASG leader Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan, is believed to have been the mastermind behind Monday’s twin bombings.
Following the incident, the military and police have tightened security in Mindanao and other parts of the country, particularly Manila.
“Based on our information, the threat is focused in Mindanao where there is concentration of Philippine troops. The militants’ aim is to inflict casualties on military and police targets. But we are increasing security in cities just to be safe,” the unnamed official said.
Army chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay condemned the attacks and said that the military remains resolute in its aim to crush the ASG and ending the violence.
“No sensible religion or ideology would ever endorse these attacks. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Rest assured that their sacrifices will not be in vain,” Gapay said.
“The ASG will not shake our resolve to bring an end to this violence. Our troops continue to be on high alert to deter similar attacks. Combat and intelligence operations have also been ramped up to catch those responsible,” he added.