An Indonesian woman detained in the southern Philippines is the wife of a top Indonesian terror suspect, a military spokesman confirmed Friday, saying her presence indicated that the husband was not far away.
The wife of Dulmatin, who goes by one name, was captured early Wednesday in the mountainous town of Patikul on the southern island of Jolo, where a U.S.-backed offensive has targeted him and other al-Qaida-linked militants since Aug. 1, officials said.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro confirmed the woman's identity and said she told military investigators that her husband was still near Patikul.
She was being interrogated for possible involvement in terrorist activities while in detention for immigration violations because she and her two children, ages 6 and 8, entered the Philippines without proper documents, he said.
The U.S. has offered a US$10 million (Ђ7.8 million) reward for Dulmatin, an alleged bomb expert for the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah wanted for his suspected involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
Officials have said he and another Indonesian also wanted over the Bali bombings, Umar Patek, fled to the southern Philippines, where they have teamed up with Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim rebel groups to set up terrorist training camps and plot attacks.
"We believe Dulmatin and Umar Patek are still in Jolo," Bacarro said. "Our troops are tracking them down. Our operations will continue until they are captured."
The Indonesians have been reportedly seen in recent months with Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, who is also on Washington's most-wanted list, military officials have said.
Such collaboration among militant groups has worried security officials because it has increased their strength and bomb-making know-how, and expanded their reach.
The arrest of Dulmatin's wife will almost certainly turn up the heat on the terror suspect, said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the Cabinet's most senior member, reports AP.
"If I were that significant fellow being sought by the authorities, I would feel disturbed that someone in the family has been arrested. You can imagine that he is very concerned about what happened to his family," Ermita told reporters.
Washington has deployed troops to the southern Philippines since 2002 to arm and provide training to Filipino forces battling the militants. U.S. troops also have provided high-tech assistance to track down Indonesian and Filipino militants on Jolo.