Philippines arrests widow of slain militants

MANILA The widow of two slain militant leaders has been arrested for allegedly supporting extremist groups and possessing firearms and explosives, Philippine police said yesterday.

Juromee Dongon was married to a senior leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group, Khadaffy Janjalani. After his death in 2006, she married Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli Hir, alias Marwan, who was killed in 2015 in the Philippines, police said.

Authorities arrested Dongon along with her relatives in her home in Lanao del Norte province in the restive southern region of Mindanao, where they found firearms, ammunition and bomb-making components, a police statement said.

"She assists, associates, networks and supports terrorist groups," regional police spokesman Superintendent Lemuel Gonda told AFP.

"Juromee is linked with Abu Sayyaf during the time of Janjalani and then later Jemaah Islamiah (JI)," he added, referring to a South-east Asian militant group.

Marwan was a leading member of JI and a suspect in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, as well as in two deadly Philippine attacks.

He died in a raid in the southern Philippines that also left 44 police commandos dead. The US had offered a US$5 million (S$6.6 million) bounty for him.

In two operations yesterday, police arrested Dongon as well as her two sisters and father, Supt Gonda said, adding that the family had "connections with terrorists".

The Dongons faced charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Abu Sayyaf is an Islamist militant group that has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the Philippines' history, including bombings.

The Abu Sayyaf had harboured JI militants in its bases in remote southern islands, including key suspects in the Bali bombings.

Security analysts have said widows of militant leaders played important roles in extremist groups as they enhanced the status of their second husbands. - AFP