The two alleged suicide bombers behind the deadly twin blasts in Jolo, Sulu were identified by the Philippine Army (PA) Wednesday as the widows of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants who died in 2019.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, PA commanding general, identified the suicide bombers through their aliases “Nanah,” a native of Basilan; and “Inda Nay,” who was originally from Sulu but transferred to Tawi-Tawi.
The attack last Monday has since claimed the lives of eight soldiers, six civilians and a policeman, according to the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
Sobejana said Nanah was the wife of Norman Lasuca, the first known Filipino suicide bomber.
Lasuca died on June 28, 2019 when he, along with another suicide bomber, detonated a body-worn improvised explosive device (IED) after they attempted to penetrate the detachment unit of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team in Indanan, Sulu.
Sobejana said that Inda Nay was the wife of Talha Jumsah alias Abu Talha, a bomb expert and a liaison of the ASG to the Islamic State (IS).
Abu Talha died in an encounter with government troops in Patikul, Sulu on November 23, 2019.
Sobejana did not confirm whether the identities of the suicide bombers were already verified via DNA testing being conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
However, he said that the suicide bombers were the “same targets” chased by Army intelligence operatives Maj. Arvin Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Eric Velasco, and Cpl. Abdal Asula before they were killed by nine policemen in Jolo, Sulu last June 29, 2020.
“The two female suicide bombers were the same targets being tracked down by the group of Maj. Indammog before they were killed,” Sobejana said.
In a separate radio interview over DWIZ on Tuesday, Sobejana said they have established the profiles of the two female suicide bombers when he was still a commander in Mindanao.
“Na-account namin iyan, initially pito sila. May mga dayuhan subalit ‘yung iba sumabog na, ‘yong dalawa namatay sa engkwentro. Sa ngayon, itong dalawang babae na lang (We took account of them, initially, there were seven of them. There were some foreigners but the others have already died, while two of them were killed in an encounter. Right now, these two female bombers were the only ones left),” he said.
Prior to being named Army chief, Sobejana was the commander of the WestMinCom from June 28, 2019 to August 4, 2020 or when three of the four incidents involving suspected suicide bombers happened in Sulu.
These were the attack at the army detachment in Indanan, Sulu on June 28, 2019 by Lasuca and another cohort; the attack involving a female and foreign-looking suicide bomber at the detachment of the 35th Infantry Battalion (35IB) in Indanan, Sulu on Sept. 8, 2019; and the Nov. 5, 2019 killing of father-and-son Egyptian nationals whom the military said were also suicide bombers and relatives of the suspect in the attack at the detachment of the 35IB.
The other incident was the attack at the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on January 27, 2019 which, according to the military and police, involved two Indonesian suicide bombers who carried out the plan with the help of the ASG.
Sobejana said the military is still pursuing the group of ASG bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan who is believed to be the brain behind the Jolo bomb attacks.
“Sa palagay ko, na-motivate rin ito ni Mundi dahil namatay ‘yong kanilang mga asawa. Pinapaniwala niya na if they die through that kind of death, sila ay aakyat sa langit (I think they were also motivated by Mundi [to commit suicide bombing] because their husbands died. He duped them into thinking that if they die in the same manner, they will ascend to heaven),” he said.
The WestMinCom paid tribute to the eight soldiers who died in the attack on Monday.
The slain soldiers were identified as Staff Sergeants Louie Cuarteros and Manuelito Oria, of the 21st Infantry Battalion (21IB); Privates John Rey Paller, James Apolinario, Juvienjay Emiani, Omair Muksan, and Aiub Sahid of (21IB); and Private John Agustin of the 35th Infantry Battalion (35IB).