MANILA: The wife of one of the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group described as a “would-be bomber” has been arrested in the Philippines, authorities announced on Monday, in the latest string of operations to weaken the militant organization in Sulu province.
Nursitta Mahalli Malud, also known as Kirsita Ismael, is the second wife of Mudzrimar “Mundi” Sawadjaan, authorities said. Sawadjaan, a notorious ASG leader and bomb maker, helped plan the bloody 2019 Sulu cathedral attack, which left dozens dead, and other suicide bombings in the island province.
Malud was arrested on Saturday, in possession of bomb-making components, in the provincial capital Jolo during a joint operation by the military and police.
“The said suspect was confirmed as the second wife of well-known Abu Sayyaf sub-leader and bomb maker Mundi Sawadjaan,” the Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.
Officials added that Malud was Sawadjaan’s finance officer and responsible for procuring items to make improvised explosive devices.
“As the group of Mundi Sawadjaan dwindled, they have become desperate and at the same time reckless,” JTF Sulu commander, Brig. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio, said.
“Now that all his companions have been arrested one after another, his capability to conduct a possible attack has weakened,” he added.
The latest arrest came after authorities foiled a bombing attempt in Patikul town, located about 27 kilometers from Jolo, after receiving a tip-off from local residents.
Philippine authorities arrested Mundi’s other wife, Fatima Nasser Anilhusra-Sawadjaan, in February last year.
Sawadjaan’s youngest brother Al-Al, was killed in June, while his other brothers were killed in military operations conducted in previous years.
The ASG is a militant group notorious for kidnappings and its pledged allegiance to Daesh. Sulu province, in the country’s Mindanao region, is a known stronghold of the group.