Sunday, September 6, 2020

Female Suicide Bombers: Urgent Deterrence Needed – Analysis

Posted to the Eurasia Review (Sep 6, 2020): Female Suicide Bombers: Urgent Deterrence Needed – Analysis (By Amalina Abdul Nasir, RSIS)

Aftermath of suicide bombing attack that took place in Jolo, Philippines on August 24, 2020. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

Aftermath of suicide bombing attack that took place in Jolo, Philippines on August 24, 2020. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

The involvement of female suicide bombers in the August Jolo bombings suggests the steady rise of female combatants in the region. There is an urgent need to address the gaps in preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) work in Southeast Asia.

On August 24, 2020, a twin bombing attack took place in Jolo, Philippines, taking 14 lives. Both suicide bombers were identified as women, one being an Indonesian wife of the first-ever FiIipino suicide bomber from the Abu Sayyaf Group. This attack marks the second female suicide bombing in the Philippines – and the fourth in Southeast Asia.

This could be the beginning of a new trend of female suicide combatants in the region. It presents a new dynamic in militancy, which further suggests that gender-based work in preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) has a long way to go.

Female Combatants in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, women have traditionally refrained from shouldering frontline roles in terror networks. They played support roles as mothers or wives, propagandists, recruiters, financiers and logistical providers, and sympathisers.

However, in recent years, female radicals in the region have taken on combat roles as attackers or suicide bombers. This can be traced back to 2016, when Indonesian Dian Yulia Nova, together with her husband, attempted to detonate themselves using a pressure cooker bomb outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.

Following this foiled attempt, the Surabaya bombings in May 2018 became the first attack in Southeast Asia involving female combatants. It was also the region’s first successful suicide attack executed by a female radical, and involving immediate family members, including women and children. The second attack involved a family which detonated themselves at a checkpoint at Surabaya police headquarters; only the daughter survived.

In January last year, an Indonesian couple ─ members of Jemaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD) ─ set themselves off in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Jolo, Philippines.

In May 2019, Malaysian authorities arrested a 51-year-old housewife who was planning to ram a car filled with gas canisters and explosives into a polling station in Puchong, Selangor during the country’s general election, according to The Star, quoting an intelligence source.

In October, a couple was arrested after stabbing Indonesia’s former chief security minister, Wiranto, with knives and scissors. These cases suggest an increasing trend of female combatants in Southeast Asia, who are flexing their ability to undertake “masculine” roles.

Call to Arms

The push for women to take up arms comes from radical women on encrypted social media and IS propaganda on platforms such as Facebook.

For example, on an Indonesian pro-IS Facebook page, the depiction of a “Mujahidah” (feminine term for mujahid, “one who engages in Jihad”) has recently shifted from a female radical carrying a baby, to a group of women armed with semi-automated rifles. This signals the increasing acceptance and encouragement of women taking up frontline roles.

Such propaganda promotes the message to radical women that they are key to the success of their husbands and the ummah (Muslim community) as they have both agency and power in their evolving operational roles.

This is also manifested in online encrypted platforms where some radical women voiced frustration at being sidelined and a strong desire to shoulder more significant roles in IS networks. This desire is seen in postings asserting that women should be “allowed to spill blood” in the cause of IS.

Missing the Mark in Gender Mainstreaming

Groups like IS assert a gender slant in their appeal to mobilise women to their cause. Hence, as the number of female combatants gradually increase, there is a growing need for gendered inputs into PCVE policymaking.

This approach, also known as gender mainstreaming, ensures that the needs and interests of both men and women are taken into account in the policy-making process. It factors in the different needs and conditions of both genders in all stages of policymaking so that policies benefit not only men but also women, and lead to better outcomes.

This approach calls for security and law enforcement agencies to be more inclusive in their counter-terrorism (CT) strategies. Participation of women in the CT policy process and decision-making can help ensure that women’s perspectives and issues related to radicalism and violent extremism are incorporated.

These nuances in formulating and implementing policies are critical to counter IS’ propaganda as the motivations of women to take up arms differ from men. A “one size fits all” approach by CT agencies is not the way to go.

Why Regional Gender Mainstreaming is Slow

In Southeast Asia, gender mainstreaming in the CT sphere is still a work in progress. The idea of female representation is taken at face value in some responsible government agencies. For example, in the National Agency for Combating Terrorism (Badan National Penanggulangan Terrorisme or BNPT) of Indonesia, gender mainstreaming can be strengthened.

Despite having quotas to ensure female representation, female officers fulfill administrative tasks instead of occupying strategic roles to influence policymaking.

Early this year, Malaysia became the first country in the region to appoint its first female counter-terrorism chief. While a significant progress, such appointments should be complemented with more female specialists at the forefront of PCVE content and programmes such as in areas of rehabilitation, reintegration, and community engagement and education.

There are many reasons why gender mainstreaming is making slow progress in the region. Amongst others, it may stem from the ingrained gender stereotypes and the conservative nature of the respective countries. Until this perception changes, it will be a constant challenge to make progress in the greater effort of PCVE.

To clearly address the trend of female combatants, a structured PCVE effort needs to be set in place. Government agencies should set the pace given their abundance of resources and expertise. Governments must also make effort to foster greater inter-agency collaboration.

A structured government approach and authentic government-stakeholder partnerships ─ in tandem with gender mainstreaming ─ can prevent more women from falling into the arms of violent radicals.

[Amalina Abdul Nasir is a Research Analyst at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.]

[RSIS Commentaries are intended to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy relevant background and analysis of contemporary developments. The views of the author/s are their own and do not represent the official position of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), NTU, which produces the Commentaries.]

Mindanao reps demand truth in killing of 9 Cotabato farmers

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 5, 2020): Mindanao reps demand truth in killing of 9 Cotabato farmers (By: Melvin Gascon)

Seven lawmakers from Mindanao condemned the killing of nine farmers allegedly by police officers in Kabacan town in Cotabato province a week ago and called for a congressional investigation of the carnage.

“Allegations that [Philippine National Police] personnel are involved in nefarious activities, especially the killing of innocent people, should never be condoned; hence, an investigation is necessary to determine the circumstances leading to these senseless activities in order for Congress to legislate remedial measures to ensure that the Constitutional rights of the people are protected and that law offenders are prosecuted,”
they said in a resolution asking for the probe.

One of the lawmakers, Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, on Friday said they filed House Resolution No. 1183 two days earlier.

The Muslim representatives said the Aug. 29 killing “sparked outrage” among the people of Mindanao following reports that the victims were “executed” rather than killed in a shootout as first reported.

The resolution was signed by Hataman, Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison, Tawi-Tawi Rep. Rashidin Matba and Lanao del Sur Reps. Yasser Alonto Balindong and Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong.
Triple loss for ex-rebel

A former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrilla lost his son, son-in-law and a nephew in the unprovoked attack.

The ex-Moro fighter who is in his late 60s supported the peace deal between the rebels and the government to end decades of Moro rebellion in southern Philippines.

He had joined the rebels to protect his family and community from similar massacres in the 1960s to 1970s.

He was looking forward to a peaceful life with his expanded family until this future was shattered when his 25-year-old son and the others were killed mercilessly.

Bangsamoro Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said Bangsamoro Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim ordered lawyers to assist the former Moro combatant and the families of the other victims pursue justice.

The lawyers will help in preparing affidavits and taking testimonies from witnesses, Sinarimbo said.

Aid to victims’ families

Ebrahim also ordered an independent probe by the Bangsamoro government in cooperation with local and national authorities, he said.

Sinarimbo and Social Welfare Minister Raissa Jajurie recently met with the victims’ families who each received P70,000 and a sack of rice as assistance.

In a statement, Hataman called on the government to make sure that the perpetrators were brought to justice to prevent a repeat of the carnage.

“Just as violence has no place in our communities, a culture of impunity should also be cast aside and eliminated, especially in our law enforcement agencies that are supposed to uphold the law,” Hataman said.

Eroding trust in police

If the allegations against the police were not true, the congressional investigation would help “clear the air” and mollify the public’s growing distrust on men in uniform, he added.

Sangcopan was concerned about how the allegation against the police “breeds animosity and may lead to more unintended circumstances.”

“The [PNP] is mandated to serve and protect our rights and safety. But with the mounting number of alleged atrocities committed by law enforcers against us Muslims, it has become a wrenching and glaring everyday reminder for us not to trust them,” she said.

Mangudadatu, whose family members were the main targets of the Ampatuan clan in the 2013 massacre that left 54 dead, said there was an urgent need for legislation that would stop the erosion of the people’s trust in law enforcers, especially in the police.

“If there are flaws in police procedure or the temptation to overstep lawful boundaries are significant, then we have to pass remedial measures to address all of these,” he said.

The nine victims were identified as Nasurdin Kalilangan, 41; Sandigan Zailon, 46; Benladin Dimanalao, 19; Zaiden Musaed, 21; Romeo Balatamay Pioto, 38; Esmael Pagayon, 17; Datu Fahad Dimanalao Mandigan, 24; Budsal Lipusan; and Nasher Guiaman, 17.
Unknown to each other

According to a report by Habib Guiabar, chair of the local MILF monitoring team, nine men on separate motorcycles who were unknown to each other, were stopped by armed men on a busy provincial road near the University of Southern Mindanao campus, brought to the roadside and gunned down.

Authorities gathered a similar report, according to Police Maj. Peter Pinalgan Jr., the Kabacan police chief.

“Based on witnesses’ account, the gunmen flagged down their motorcycles, about five [of them], and demanded identification cards. Then, suddenly, they were shot at close range,” he said.

Before they were shot, one of the victims was able to call his father to report that he and the others were “stopped by the police.” Moments later, his father heard gunshots on the phone.

Another victim, who died several hours after the shooting, also told his relatives at the hospital that policemen were responsible, according to Erlan Deluvio, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights.

Deluvio said he would docket the attack as an “extrajudicial killing.”

CENTCOM: Estudyante ng Naging Miyembro sang mga Berdugong CPP-NPA-NDF!

Posted to the Central Command (CENTCOM) Facebook Page (Sep 4, 2020): Estudyante ng Naging Miyembro sang mga Berdugong CPP-NPA-NDF!


CENTCOM/78 IB: Look// Borongan City Task Force ELCAC delivers essential government services in the Conflict-Affected Areas (CAAs) in Borongan City

Posted to 78th "Warrior" Infantry Battalion Facebook Page (Sep 6, 2020): Look// Borongan City Task Force ELCAC delivers essential government services in the Conflict-Affected Areas (CAAs) in Borongan City

CTF-ELCAC of Borongan City with Mayor Agda as the Chairman and the different departments and the 78th Infantry (Warrior) Battalion conducted Grand Pulong-pulong, and Serbisyo Caravan dubbed “Cum Dul-ong Serbisyo” last September 4, 2020 held at Brgy Pinanag-an, Borongan City.

During the Grand Pulong-pulong, the identified primary and secondary issues exploited by the NPA to agitate and mobilize innocent civilians and eventually recruit them into the rebel group were provided with answers from the concerned local departments and agencies. While the Serbisyo Caravan benefited two hundred sixty-two (262) residents in the different services as follows; free medical and dental check-up, circumcision, haircut, and mass wedding. Furthermore, 500 families were also given food packs during the Serbisyo Caravan. The Warrior Band, Warrior Dancers, and Magician of 78IB also provided entertainment to the populace.

The activity can be considered historic for being the first significant event launched by the CTF-ELCAC of Borongan City, especially in its most isolated barangays that accessible only through the motorboat with more or less three (3) hours travel time. Indeed, the Whole-of-Nation Approach work at its best as the members of LGUs actively participated and collaborated their efforts towards peace and development in the Conflict-Affected Areas. Finally, the activity's success only signals the return of the locals' trust and confidence in their government in general and to the AFP in particular. The twin terroristic acts perpetuated by the NPAs last year and the recent armed engagement of the 78IB troops against the rebels in the barangay's vicinity did not prevent the local populace from going out and actively participated in the Grand Pulong-pulong and Serbisyo Caravan.


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CENTCOM: AFP Statement on the Alleged Maltreatment of Aeta Communities

Posted to the Central Command (CENTCOM) Facebook Page (Sep 6, 2020): AFP Statement on the Alleged Maltreatment of Aeta Communities

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WESTMINCOM: Local terrorist killed, war materiel seized in Sibugay province

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Facebook Page (Sep 6, 2020): Local terrorist killed, war materiel seized in Sibugay province

Military troops seized one dead body and several war materiel of the local terrorist group following a gun fight in Sibugay province at 3:15 a.m., September 6, 2020.

Combined elements of the 44th Infantry Battalion and Naval Special Operations Unit encountered undetermined number of local terrorist group members in Barangay Lapaz, Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay Province.

The 30-minute firefight resulted in the death of one enemy and the wounding of two soldiers and three civilians.

The killed enemy was identified as Idris Aquilon, a closed associate of the said local terrorist group.

“We believe that a number of bandits were wounded and probably could have died due to loss of blood after the encounter especially that our troops are still pursuing them as of this report,” said Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, JTF ZamPeLan Commander.
Troops also recovered three rifle grenades, one magazine, one bandolier, and several explosive materials and ammunitions.

“Our joint task forces continuously employ more pressure on the remaining local terrorists to gain more enemy strongholds and end terrorism in Western and Central MIndanao,” said Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“Nonetheless, we still encourage them to lay down their arms in order to finally have peace in the region,” added Maj. Gen. Vinluan, Jr.

Battle casualties are currently recuperating at the hospitals in Sibugay province.