Malaysian police have arrested 10 people – seven Filipinos, two local men and a local woman aged from 27 to 50 – for allegedly having ties to a militant jihadist group.
The arrests came during a series of counter-terrorism raids conducted in Johor and Sabah between January 25 and February 6.
According to Malaysian police intelligence, Abu Sayyaf Group was trying to set up a branch in Sabah, to serve as a transit point to help militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) travel through Southeast Asia to the southern Philippines, Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported.
During the first operation on Jan 25 and 26, three Filipino men and two local Malaysian men were arrested in Sandakan, Sabah, where they worked as laborers, an unlicensed moneylender, a boat operator, plus one who was unemployed at the time of arrest.
Malaysia’s top cop Mohamad Fuzi Harun said one of the five arrested was a 39-year-old Filipino who had pledged his alliance and received orders from a senior IS militant in the southern Philippines to arrange safe passage for militants from Sandakan to Zamboanga, where they would join an IS faction.The other four were believed to be accomplices.
On February 4, three more Filipino men and a Malaysian woman were detained by police in Penampang, Sabah. These people worked as a gardener, laborer and a security guard, while another was unemployed. One turned out to be a senior Abu Sayyaf member in Basilan.
Two days later, in a follow-up operation in Sandakan, a 49-year-old Filipino taxi driver who had Malaysian permanent resident status was arrested for allegedly assisting the smuggling of militants.