The Indonesian husband and wife suicide bombers, who killed 23 people in the Jolo cathedral bombing in January, used Sabah as a transit point to slip into southern Philippines.
Special Branch Counter Terrorism director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said two Indonesian Islamic State (IS) militants who were working in Keningau, Sabah, helped the couple, who then travelled to the Philippines to carry out the bombings.
Ayob said the police arrested the two Indonesian facilitators in Keningau in May.
He said the involvement of the duo was worrisome as it showed that there was cooperation between IS militants in Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.
On July 24, The Jakarta Post reported that an Indonesian couple affiliated with IS was believed to be behind the suicide bombing of a cathedral on Jolo Island on Jan 29.
The husband and wife were identified as members of the Indonesian terror group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) from Makassar, South Sulawesi.
“They are two Indonesian nationals identified as Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh,” said National Police spokesman Brig-Gen Dedi Prasetyo.
Dedi said Indonesian police uncovered their identities after an investigation following the arrest of two suspected terrorists and members of the JAD network identified as Novendri and Yoga in Padang, West Sumatra and Malaysia, respectively, in June.
According to the police, Rullie and Ulfah were sent to the Philippines by an alleged mastermind of multiple terror attacks in Indonesia, identified as “S” or Daniel or Chaniago, who is believed to be staying in Afghanistan.
“S”, who was believed to have financed the couple’s journey after learning of their intention, had been on the National Police’s most wanted list for a long time, Dedi said.On May 30, The Star quoted Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador as saying that a 20-year-old Indonesian man was believed to have been a facilitator for Indonesian IS militants who transited in Sabah before heading to the southern Philippines to launch suicide bombings.
“The suspect was arrested in Keningau, Sabah on May 26. He was a labourer and had performed the bai’ah (oath of allegiance) to Abu Bakar (IS head Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi) as well.
“The suspect has also channelled funds to the Maute terror group in southern Philippines and was planning to head to Syria soon,” Abdul Hamid said.
Ayob yesterday said the counter terrorism division was worried about the link between the female Jolo suicide bomber and an Indonesian woman who was part of a family of suicide bombers in Surabaya, Indonesia.
“We are also very concerned about the rise in the number of women suicide bombers,” he told the media after giving a talk on “Addressing the threats of Daesh, IS and defiant teaching” in Pendang, near here.
State police chief Datuk Zainuddin Yaacob delivered the opening speech.
Some 500 participants comprising village heads and representatives of government agencies and the private sector in Pendang district attended the seminar.
“This is the new trend in South-East Asia, where women are used as suicide bombers,” said Ayob.
The Special Branch Counter Terrorism director said there were other IS arrests that the police had not announced yet.
“That is why we say the threat will never end. The number of attacks has reduced but their impact is big because they now can build more powerful explosive devices,” he added.