Malaysian authorities have arrested eight suspected members of the southern Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf Group militant group in Kuala Lumpur, including a leading Filipino ASG operative, Malaysia’s counter-terrorist police chief confirmed.
The suspects, two Philippine nationals and six Malaysians, were picked up by police in the Kuala Lumpur district of Cheras on Wednesday – the eve of national celebrations of Malaysia’s 60th Independence Day – according to the Star, a local English-language newspaper that broke the story on Sunday.
But the report did not say what they were arrested for or whether their arrests were connected to any plot or militant activity tied to the celebrations, and Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the chief of the national police’s counter-terrorist declined to go into detail.
“Yes, I confirm [this]. But wait for the official press release,” Ayob told BenarNews on Sunday, saying his department was busy preparing for a sending off ceremony on Monday for Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar, who is retiring.
The suspects in custody include six Malaysians from the eastern state of Sabah who are of Philippine heritage and two Filipinos, including 25-year-old Hajar Abdul Mubin (alias Abu Asrie). According to the report in the Star, he is an Abu Sayyaf leader who belonged to a kidnap-for-ransom gang, the so-called “Lucky Nine” band affiliated with ASG and based in Jolo and Basilan, in the southern Philippines.
ASG is notorious for abducting civilians from different countries and executing foreign hostages when ransoms are not met. Some of the group’s fighters are linked with the extremist organization Islamic State (IS), and have also been involved in occupying the southern Philippine city of Marawi and battling Philippine government forces there for the past three months.
The report said Abu Asrie had slipped into Malaysia in 2015 after meeting several suspected Malaysian IS militants including Mahmud Ahmad, who allegedly is a conduit for IS funds coming from the Middle East. Mahmud was actively involved in the Marawi siege together with ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is the recognized regional leader of Islamic State.
Full story: BenarNews
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