Terror swoop nets 13 linked to Sulu, Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups

Several of the suspects arrested in anti-terror operations in Sabah last week. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Police say 12 Filipinos and one local were arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities in anti-terror operations in Semporna and Tambunan last week.

In a statement, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the suspects were believed to be involved with the Abu Sayyaf and Royal Sulu Force (RSF) militant groups.

He said several of them had also harboured foreign terrorist elements in Sabah.

The Malaysian suspect was arrested along with five Filipinos in Semporna on March 11. Four of them were suspected of involvement in conflict with the Maute Muslim militants in southern Philippines in 2017.

They were also believed to have given protection to Maute fighters and several Middle Easterners hiding in Sabah.

The other two were arrested on suspicion of involvement with the RSF in the 2013 attacks on Lahad Datu and Semporna.

“They also recruited new members for the RSF from among the Filipinos in Sabah,” Fuzi said.

“Both suspects fled to southern Philippines after the RSF’s defeat and entered Semporna to reactivate RSF activity in Sabah.”

Five men and a woman, meanwhile, were arrested in Tambunan. One of them, a construction labourer, was suspected of being a member of Abu Sayyaf. The suspect was also believed to have been involved in the conflict in Marawi.

“The suspect entered Sabah in December last year, together with other members of the group, to avoid the Philippine’s military operations,” Fuzi said.

The other five were arrested for giving protection to Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants who are still at large.

Another Filipino man, also a labourer, was arrested in Tambunan the following day for the same offences.

The 13 suspects were arrested under Act 574 of the Penal Code and are being investigated for offences under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

Ten of the Filipino suspects, who were without valid travel documents, were handed over to the Immigration Department.