9 Abu Sayyaf-linked females arrested in Sulu, bomb components seized

JOINT government forces have arrested nine females with links to the Abu Sayyaf bandit and terror group in Sulu last week, some of whom were in possession of bomb components, the military reported on Tuesday.  “Simultaneous joint law enforcement operations of the Joint Task Force–Sulu and Philippine National Police (PNP) on Feb. 19 led to the arrest of several potential suicide bombers and personalities linked to members of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” the Philippine Army’s 11 Infantry Division based in Sulu said in a statement. Among those arrested were three daughters of the late ASG leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who was killed in a gun battle against the military in July last year. The three were identified as Isara Jalmaani Abduhajan, 36; Jedah Abduhajan Amin, 28; and Elena Tasum Sawadjaan-Abun, 40. Components for making improvised explosive devices were seized from Isara and Jedah, who were both arrested in Barangay Bangkal.

Elena was nabbed in another village along with fellow suspected potential suicide bomber Firdauzia Said. They are both widows of killed Abu Sayyaf leaders. Another ASG widow, Nudsza Ismanu Aslun, was arrested in a separate operation along with Nurshahada A. Isnain, wife ASG member Alias Akram who is known as a trusted follower of ASG sub-leader Mundi Sawadjaan. Three other women identified as Linda Darun Maruji, Risa Jhalil, and Sharifa Rajani, all residing at Kalimayahan village, were also arrested and facing the same charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. “This is how desperate the remaining terrorists are, willing to sacrifice their families just to get back at government forces,” said Major Gen. William N. Gonzales, commander of JTF-Sulu. The Abu Sayyaf first became notorious for kidnap-for-ransom activities and later pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State. Two female suicide bombers carried out twin blasts in August last year in Jolo, the capital of Sulu, where 15 people died and at least 75 others were injured, including soldiers, police, and civilians. — MSJ

4,000 hogs in Talikud Island culled due to ASF

AROUND 4,000 hogs in Talikud, a small island off the Island Garden City of Samal, have been culled due to African Swine Fever (ASF), according to Samal Mayor Al David T. Uy. “The implementation of the restrictions is ongoing. No hogs or pork-related products can enter or exit Talikud island,” he said in an interview. The production damage is estimated at around P10 million. Mr. Uy said the rehabilitation program has started and financial assistance has been extended to the 400 backyard swine raisers affected by the ASF outbreak. The local government of Samal distributed cash aid in addition to the  P5,000 per pig allocated under the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Davao regional office. The DA-Davao also set P3 million for goat dispersal as an alternative livelihood to the affected farmers. The ASF outbreak on Talikud was first confirmed in November last year. DA-Davao is currently assessing the timing for the region’s hog repopulation program. “We have fund allocation for hog repopulation but we need to study if repopulation is already viable at this time since the virus is just around the corner and may again infect our hog dispersal,” Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension Marila L. Corpuz said in a statement earlier this month. She said they are evaluating the affected areas, starting with Davao Occidental, the first province in the region to have confirmed ASF cases in February last year. Outbreaks were also recorded in parts of Davao City, Davao Oriental, and Davao del Norte. — Maya M. Padillo