Suicide bombers in Philippine attack were militants’ widows, says army chief

Police and military talk at the site of an explosion in the town of Jolo on Aug 24. (AP pic)

MANILA: Two female suicide attackers who carried out a double bombing in the southern Philippines were the widows of militants who had worked for the IS-linked Abu Sayyaf group, the army chief said Wednesday.

Fourteen people were killed and 75 wounded, including members of the government-backed security forces and civilians, when the pair blew themselves up in a coordinated attack on Jolo island in Muslim-majority Sulu province on Monday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the country’s deadliest attack this year, but the military had pointed to Abu Sayyaf as the likely culprits.

Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana identified the female bombers as Nanah and Inda Nay.

In a text message to reporters, Sobejana said Nanah was the wife of Norman Lasuca, who is considered the Philippines’ first homegrown suicide bomber.

Lasuca and another attacker blew themselves up outside a military camp on Jolo in June 2019, killing several soldiers and civilians.

Inda Nay was the wife of Talha Jumsah, also known as Abu Talha, who acted as liaison between Abu Sayyaf and the IS group.

He was killed in November in a shoot-out with security forces on Jolo.

Authorities are checking if Nanah was Indonesian.

Sobejana has called for martial law to be imposed in Sulu – a chain of islands that has long been a stronghold for Abu Sayyaf – to “bring back normality” and enable the military to control the movement of people.

But Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has rejected the request.

“There will be no martial law,” Lorenzana told AFP late Tuesday.

Listed by the US as a terrorist organisation, Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of Islamist militants blamed for the Philippines’ worst terror attacks as well as kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.

Monday’s explosions happened near a Catholic cathedral on Jolo where two suicide bombers blew themselves up in January 2019 killing 21 people.

That attack was blamed on a group linked to Abu Sayyaf.

Suicide attacks were once very rare in the Philippines, but since July 2018 there have been five, including the latest blasts.