Bangkok, Feb 24 (efe-epa).- The Philippine military said Tuesday night it arrested nine women suspected of planning suicide bombings with links to the Abu Sayyaf terror group leadership.
The women were arrested Friday during a series of raids at three homes in the south-western province of Sulu in the Philippines, General Corleto Velluan, head of the Philippine Armed Forces Western Command said.
During the operation, the authorities seized several material used to make homemade explosive devices, including detonators, and a sketch presumably of the targets of the attack.
Abu Sayyaf, which pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) terror group in 2014, was founded in the 1990s by veterans of the Afghanistan war against the Soviet Union on the neighboring island of Basilan, and has carried out several attacks and kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.
The group, responsible for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, has claimed the twin suicide attack carried out by two Indonesian militants in January 2019 at a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu’s capital, during Sunday mass.
A total of 23 people were killed in the attack and over 100 injured.
Although Islamist extremism is not new to the Philippines, suicide attacks do not correspond to the classic modus operandi of local groups, but have emerged as a recent threat in the country.
The Philippines has already recorded five such attacks in two years, all claimed by the IS and committed with the logistical support of Abu Sayyaf.
It is believed that there are about 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu along with several foreign terrorists, who fled Syria and Iraq and found refuge with them.
The arrival of foreign extremists in the Philippines has involved the importation of new forms of more extreme violence, such as lone wolves and suicide bombings, a method that was not common among local groups. EFE-EPA