KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police have arrested 10 people on suspicion of aiding the movement of militants between the eastern state of Sabah and the southern Philippines, a hotbed of Islamic insurgency, the second batch of arrests this year.
The Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since gunmen linked to Islamic State launched several attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighboring Indonesia, in January 2016.
Police arrested the 10 suspects in three separate raids between Jan. 25 and Feb. 6, inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.
Among the suspects is a 27-year-old Filipino believed to be a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, and another Filipino, 32, believed to have arranged passage of foreign nationals to the southern Philippines to join Islamic State.
“Preliminary information gleaned from the 10 suspects revealed an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf group to establish a cell in Sabah,” Mohamad Fuzi said.
Mohamad Fuzi said Abu Sayyaf had intended to bring in IS fighters from Southeast Asia to the southern Philippines for military training.
“The same cell members would then be used to launch attacks on Sabah in the future,” he said.
Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.
A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2016 wounded eight people. Islamic State claimed responsibility.