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Sabah Sayyaf cell bid
Published on: Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kuala Lumpur: Police have arrested 10 people on suspicion of aiding the movement of militants between Sabah and the southern Philippines, a hotbed of Islamic insurgency.

This is the second batch of arrests this year. The 10 suspects were arrested in three separate raids between Jan 25 and Feb 6, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement Wednesday.

Among the suspects is a 27-year-old Filipino believed to be a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, and another Filipino, 32, believed to have arranged passage of foreign nationals to the southern Philippines to join the Islamic State (IS).

"Preliminary information gleaned from the 10 suspects revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf group to establish a cell in Sabah," Fuzi said.

He added that Abu Sayyaf had intended to bring in IS fighters from Southeast Asia to the southern Philippines for military training.

"The same cell members would then be used to launch attacks on Sabah in the future," he said.

Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2016 wounded eight people.

IS had claimed responsibility for the attack.

One of those sentenced for the attack was a convert from Kota Marudu.

The suspects in latest action comprised two Malaysian men, a Malaysian woman and the rest Filipinos aged between 27 and 50 were nabbed in several stings launched by the federal police Special Branch's Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) between Jan 24 and Feb 6 in Sandakan and Penampang.

Among those detained was a passenger boat pilot, a security officer of a private company and an unlicensed currency exchanger.

Also held was a 49-year-old Filipino taxi driver with Malaysian permanent residence status.

Mohd Fuzi said the suspects had turned Sandakan into transit grounds where militants from other countries were smuggled in before being sent to the South Philippines.

He said among those of interest held in the operations were – a 27-year-old suspected senior member of the Basilan-based ASG cell and a 39-year-old man who had sworn allegiance before key leaders of the group and underwent a series of militant training since 2000.

"Based on preliminary findings from those held, the ASG is attempting to form a cell in Sabah to arrange for Daesh fighters from all of south-east Asia to undergo militant training in South Philippines.

This cell will also be used to launch armed attacks on Sabah in the future," Mohamad Fuzi said.

Police also revealed that in a separate case, a 34-year-old Malaysian who had planned to join Daesh in Syria was arrested in Singapore by the authorities on Jan 18.

Mohd Fuzi said the lorry driver who is from Penang was handed over to the Special Branch in Johor Baru by Singapore on Feb 2.

He said the suspects are being held under anti-terrorism laws of the Penal Code and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

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