Indonesian husband and wife carried out the Jolo cathedral attack

In Jakarta police announce that the couple (Rullie Rian Zeke and Ulfah Handayani Saleh) took part in a de-radicalisation programme. For investigators, this confirms the "growing ties" between jihadis in Southeast Asia. After defeats in Syria and Iraq, Indonesian extremists try to fall back in Afghanistan.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A married couple from Indonesia, who once took part in a government de-radicalisation programme, carried out the attack in Jolo cathedral last January.

Police in the southern Filipino city issued a statement confirming reports that emerged in the days following the attack (about 30 dead) blaming  foreign extremists for the incident.

Local sources report that the couple's involvement highlights the "growing ties" between the various extremist and militant groups across Southeast Asia (Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia).

In Indonesia, National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo reports that an extremist from East Kalimantan arrested last month confessed that he recruited Rullie Rian Zeke and his wife, Ulfah Handayani Saleh, for the attack in the Philippines.

The arrested militant, identified only as Yoga, and the couple recruited for the attack belonged to Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a banned extremist group.

According to investigators, the latter aligned itself with the Islamic State (IS) group. Yoga also appears to have had contacts with IS militants in Afghanistan.

Prasetyo notes that Zeke and Saleh had tried and failed to reach Syria with their children. On their way back to Indonesia, they were intercepted, subjected to a government de-radicalisation programme and then released.

The case again highlights the concerns the authorities and anti-terrorist groups have about closely-knit ties between Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino extremists.

IS too has recruited people for its operations in Iraq and Syria, as well as in the countries of origin after training.

Some Indonesian extremists have tried to reach Afghanistan after IS was defeated in Syria and Iraq.

One of them was a man arrested in a city outside Jakarta who was planning a suicide attack last May during protests against the results of Indonesia’s presidential elections.