Nine women suspected of plotting to blow up military targets in the restive southern Philippines have been arrested, the army said Tuesday.
Security forces detained the women and seized bomb-making equipment during raids on Friday of several homes on Muslim-majority Jolo island, a stronghold of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group.
Most of the women were the daughters or widows of slain Abu Sayyaf fighters and included several “potential suicide bombers”, Major General William Gonzales said in a statement.
“This is how desperate the remaining terrorists are, willing to sacrifice their families just to get back at government forces,” Gonzales said.
The women had been monitored giving “financial or logistical support to their relatives” in Abu Sayyaf, First Lieutenant Jerrica Manongdo told AFP.
They allegedly planned to attack soldiers with improvised explosive devices.
Three of the women are the daughters of the late Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who was accused of planning the deadly attack on Jolo cathedral in 2019 which killed 21 people.
Their arrest comes six months after a pair of female suicide bombers, including an Indonesian, blew themselves up on Jolo, killing 15 people and wounding 74 others.
It was the country’s deadliest attack last year.
Listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation, Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of Islamist militants blamed for the Philippines’ worst terror attacks and kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries.