The police have arrested 13 people - 12 Filipinos and a Malaysian - in Sabah on suspicion of being members of terrorist groups and protecting terrorists in hiding, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said today.
They were rounded up in the Semporna and Tambunan areas in a two-day operation on March 11 and 12 mounted by the Counter-Terrorism Division, Special Branch and the VAT 69 Commando Unit, he said in a statement.
“All of them were arrested on suspicion of being members of one of several terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Maute and Royal Sulu Force (RSF). Some of them are suspected to have given protection to terrorist elements believed to be in hiding in Sabah,” he said.
Elaborating, Fuzi said the police arrested five Filipinos and the Malaysian, aged between 40 and 60, in Semporna on March 11.
“Four of them are suspected to have been involved in the Maute terrorist group siege of Marawi City, Philippines, in 2017. They are also suspected to have given protection to Maute terrorist elements and several Middle Eastern nationals believed to be hiding in Sabah,” he said.
He also said that the two others are suspected to be members of the RSF that was involved in the attacks in Lahad Datu and Semporna in 2013.
They are also suspected to have been involved in recruiting new members for RSF by selling membership cards of the group to Filipino nationals residing in Sabah, he said.
Fuzi said these two suspects had fled to the southern Philippines after the defeat of the RSF, but in November last year, they sneaked into Semporna to revive RSF activities in Sabah.
Hunt on for more
Also on March 11, the police arrested five Filipinos and a Filipina, aged between 23 and 63, in Tambunan, he said.
“One of the suspects, a construction labourer, is suspected to be a member of the ASG that was involved in the attack on Marawi City. The suspect sneaked into Sabah in December last year to escape Philippine military operations.
“The five others are suspected to have given shelter to ASG and Maute terrorist elements who are still free,” he said.
Fuzi said that on March 12, the police arrested a 39-year-old Filipino, who worked as a construction labourer, on suspicion of having given shelter to ASG and Maute terrorist elements.
“With these arrests, the police believe they can trace and hunt the remnants of the ASG and Maute members suspected to be hiding in the country, especially in Sabah,” he said.
All of them were arrested on suspicion of having committed offences under Chapter VI A on Offences Relating to Terrorism of the Penal Code (Act 574) and are being investigated in accordance with procedures under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Act 747), he said.
Fuzi said 10 Filipino nationals without valid travel documents were also arrested during the operation.
They have been handed over to the Immigration Department for further action, he added.