Malaysian terror group working with Abu Sayyaf, says deputy home minister

Police arresting a suspected terrorist in 2018. Locals are believed to be working with Abu Sayyaf terrorists in abducting people from Sabah to demand ransom. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman today confirmed that members of a Malaysian terror group are in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf from the southern Philippines.

He said police had first established this in 2018 following the arrests of seven Abu Sayaff men and a Malaysian in separate locations in Putrajaya and places like Tenom, Ranau and Kinarut in Sabah.

“The authorities are aware of this link after these suspects were detained. The police had then issued a statement that the terrorists were in contact with their partners active in Sabah,” he told FMT today.

Bukit Aman Special Branch’s counter-terrorism division had arrested eight men between Oct 30 and Nov 12 in 2018.

The first was a 38-year-old man in Putrajaya, suspected of channelling funds to Malaysian Islamic State militant Akel Zainal in Syria. The second round of arrests involved three Filipinos, allegedly linked to the Abu Sayyaf group.

The last arrest was on Nov 12, 2018, involving a 60-year-old trader who had harboured a wanted militant four days earlier.

All the suspects are now being held under the Security Offences (Special Measures Act 2012 (Sosma).

“We are now monitoring them and our intelligence units have also redoubled their efforts to identify others still operating in Sabah,” Azis said when met at the Sabah government Chinese New Year open house in Likas here.

Azis said the threat posed by this group had been brought under control and resulted in no more Malaysians being kidnapped.

Azis Jamman.

However, he said there are still kidnap attempts by the Abu Sayyaf bandits and this had resulted in Indonesian nationals, mostly fishermen, becoming the victims.

Philippine armed forces and its counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia are expected to meet soon to look into the participation of the Malaysian terror group in the latest kidnappings in Sabah’s east coast areas.

Western Mindanao armed forces command chief Lt Gen Cirilito Sobejana believed the ease of movement of the kidnappers in the waters off Sabah indicated that they had obtained the assistance of a Malaysian terror group.

“We are investigating this with our Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts, who are signatories of our trilateral security agreement.

“You cannot go to an area if you do not have local contacts.

“We presume there are locals on Tambisan and parts of Sabah who are working with this group behind these abductions,’ said Sobejana.

Last week, five Indonesian nationals working as fishermen for a local company were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group near Tambisan, near Lahad Datu, in Sabah’s east coast.

Following this, the Indonesian government had accused Malaysian authorities of “ineffective coordination” that led to these abductions.

“We truly regret that this sort of incident keeps repeating. It seems to have been caused by ineffective coordination among Malaysian authorities, among other things,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar was reported as saying by The Jakarta Post.

Azis said he expected Wisma Putra to soon call for a dialogue with Indonesia and the Philippines on how to best deal with the latest abductions in the Sabah east coast.