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MANILA – On Tuesday (Feb 23), the Philippine military declared that it had detained a sister and three daughters of the slain leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, among a group of nine women it said were conspiring to carry out suicide bombings.

Lieutenant-General Corleto Vinluan, head of the Western Command of the Philippine Armed Forces, said the joint operation was carried out in the early hours of Friday by soldiers and police in the southern province of Sulu with search warrants (Feb 19).

“This led to the apprehension of nine female potential suicide bombers who are related to some of the notorious leaders and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said Vinluan.

For decades, Abu Sayyaf, based in Sulu, has carried out abductions, bomb attacks and piracy. It has declared allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since 2014.

In a release, the military said the women arrested included a sister and three daughters of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a leader of Abu Sayyaf who died in a soldiers’ firefight in Patikul, a town in Sulu, in July last year.

The women, including non-electric blasting caps, nails, batteries, cell phones, and a rough sketch of their plot, were caught with bomb-making materials, the military said.

The authorities view Sawadjaan as the mastermind of a suicide bomb attack by an Indonesian couple on a church in Sulu in Jan 2019, which killed more than 20 people and injured more than 100, including civilians and soldiers.

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