A new terror cell in Sabah has been identified as the transit point for militant group Islamic State (IS) to recruit new members from the Southeast Asian region before going to southern Philippines.
The cell, led by former Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad was uncovered by Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter Terrorism unit.
Mahmud who is in the ‘intelligence radar’ is believed to have merged with the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon Hapilon.
This latest development came after the arrest of a Filipino, two Bangladeshi men and a local woman.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said the suspects, aged between 27 and 31, were detained following separate raids by the special squad to counter terrorism in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur on Jan 13 and Jan 19.
In the first arrest, a 31-year-old Filipino was picked up in Kota Kinabalu on Jan 13.
“The first suspect, who is a watch salesman, was assigned by the IS to get new recruits from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar for terror groups in Marawi City, Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
“The second suspect is a 27-year-old local woman from Selangor who was recruited by the first suspect via social media,” he said in a statement recently.
Khalid said the woman was arrested along with the Filipino (first suspect) in Kota Kinabalu when she took a flight to Kota Kinabalu from the KL International Airport (KLIA).
Police believe she was planning to fly to Sandakan before travelling to southern Philippines.
“The woman admitted that she was planning to marry the first suspect,” he added. The remaining suspects were two Bangladeshi salesmen aged 27 and 28.
“They were arrested on Jan 19 and have connections to IS cells in Bangladesh as well and they were also recruited by the first suspect,” he added.
“On the cells’ merger, Isnilon has also sworn a ‘bai’ah’ or oath of allegiance to IS leader, Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi.
“Aside from Dr Mahmud, two other prominent cell members are locals – Darul Islam Sabah member Amin Bacho and Joraimee Awang,” said Khalid.
All the suspects are being detained for suspicion of committing offences under Chapter VI A of the Penal Code, and are being investigated according to procedures under the Security Offences (Special Measure) 2012 (Act 747), Khalid said.