Malaysian police arrested a suspected leader and seven members of Abu Sayyaf in Kuala Lumpur, it was announced today (Sunday, September 3).
Police detained Hajar Abdul Mubin — also known as Abu Asrie — in a raid on Wednesday.
Hajar, aged 25, is the leader of the Jolo-based Lucky 9 kidnap-for-ransom group. He was arrested along with one other Filipino and six Malaysians from Sabah. The eastern state of Borneo shares a porous maritime border with the Philippines.
The arrests were first reported by the Malaysian English daily, The Star.
The newspaper also reports that security forces in Sabah, Borneo, are continuing to monitor for Abu Sayyaf militants attempting to enter the state.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said there had been no threats or reports of Abu Sayyaf militants entering the state so far.
“But we are being vigilant and are constantly monitoring the situation,” he said.
Asked whether militants could be living in Sabah, particularly in coastal squatter areas, Mr Hazani said he had no information.
“However, it doesn’t mean we are not checking. We do not have information on them being here with the communities but we are keeping a close watch,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf is notorious for bombings, beheadings, extortion and kidnap-for-ransom in the south of the Philippines. The main strongholds of the Islamic State affiliated group are Sulu and Basilan islands.
The arrests were the latest in an ongoing crackdown on militancy by Muslim-majority Malaysia. More than 250 people have been arrested between 2013 and 2016 for suspected militancy linked to Islamic State.
Governments in Southeast Asia have been worried over the possible expansion of Islamic State in the region as battle-hardened militants return home after the collapse of their self-styled caliphate in the Middle East.
A confederation of Islamist militants, led by the Maute group, seized large parts of Marawi City on May 23. Some 620 militants, 136 soldiers and police and 45 civilians have been killed in the ongoing fighting.