MANILA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine security forces have recently arrested nine women suspected of being suicide bombers in the southern Philippines' Sulu province, the military said on Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command, said a team of soldiers and policemen arrested the nine "potential suicide bombers" during simultaneous operations at dawn last Friday in Patikul and Jolo towns in Sulu province.
Vinluan said the nine women are undergoing orientation for suicide bombing. "They are still on the orientation stage while the improvised explosives are being assembled," Vinluan said.
The suspects include the sister and three daughters of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who was killed in a clash with troops in July last year. Sawadjaan allegedly masterminded several suicide bombings in the remote province.
The military said the troops seized improvised explosive device components from the women, including a battery with snap, a non-electric blasting cap, ammonium nitrate fuel oil, detonating cord, concrete nails, and the like.
The nine suspects are facing charges of illegal possession of explosives.
The military said it failed to arrest other targets during a separate operation in Indanan town.
In 2020, a pair of female suicide bombers blew themselves up in Jolo that killed 15 people.
The military has launched on-and-off offensives against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a loose band of about 200 militants. The group has carried out deadly bombings and kidnappings in the remote and poor southern Philippine provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
The group has been sowing terror in the southern Philippine region since the early 1990s, preying on foreign tourists, small entrepreneurs, farmers, and fisherfolks from the Philippines and neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia.