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Sabah alert over top militants' deaths
Published on: Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Bukit Aman is focusing on counter-terrorism efforts in Sabah following the latest development in southern Philippines where two pro-Islamic State (IS) top terrorist leaders were killed.

Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute group co-founder Omar Maute were killed after midnight Sunday when their hideout in Marawi city in Mindanao was revealed to security forces by a female hostage who escaped.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military was still clearing remnants of the militants and their improvised explosives from their last stronghold.

The advance made by Philippine troops raised fears that militants might flee to other areas in the country or even to Indonesia and Malaysia.

"We are giving special focus to Sabah in our campaign to combat terrorism due to its proximity to the troubled areas and the latest development in southern Philippines," Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun told FMT.

"Our counter-terrorism efforts are not focused within the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), which is located along the east coast of Sabah and its waters bordering southern Philippines, but cover the whole state.

"We are sparing no efforts in eradicating terrorism and militant elements in Sabah and also the country."

Earlier, FMT reported Fuzi as saying that police believed the nation's most wanted terrorist Mahmud Ahmad and other Malaysian militants survived the offensive that killed Hapilon and Omar.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) chief Hazani Ghazali told FMT Monday that the command was tightening operations to secure Sabah's borders in the east coast with southern Philippines to ensure no remnants of the militants sneaked into Sabah.

Several Malaysian and Filipino Abu Sayyaf terrorists were detained and charged recently in Kuala Lumpur after they allegedly transited Sabah.

Police believed they entered through Sandakan in the east coast from southern Philippines.

In 2013, Sabah's Lahad Datu district was attacked by militants supporting self-styled Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III from southern Philippines, who wanted to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia.

The Malaysian government said 68 militants and 10 security personnel were killed in the standoff.

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