Boosting patrols off Sabah to guard against fleeing Abu Sayyaf
KLUANG: Malaysia will increase security patrols in the waters off eastern Sabah following the killing of wanted Abu Sayyaf leader Al Habsi Misaya by the Philippine military last Friday.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said this was important to prevent Abu Sayyaf militants from entering Sabah to escape the military operations in southern Philippines.
“We confirm that Al Habsi has been killed by Philippine marines in an operation in Jolo on Friday.
“The Philippine military has been intensifying their operations against Abu Sayyaf militants lately, so it is important for us to increase our patrols at the borders to prevent the militants from entering Sabah to escape,” he said after closing the Health Ministry’s “Ziarah Kasih Sayang” programme in Taman Sri Lambak here yesterday.
Present were Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya and Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor.
Al Habsi has been blamed for the abductions of dozens of Malaysians and Indonesian, including one who was beheaded. He was among 23 people wanted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
Esscom commander Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid told the New Straits Times on Saturday that 10 of the 23 people linked to Abu Sayyaf had been killed in gun battles.
Counterterrorism expert Andrin Raj said while Al Habsi’s death would significantly affect Abu Sayyaf, it would not disrupt the group’s operations.
“The threat of kidnappings remains high as Abu Sayyaf operatives are still in Sabah.
“There is a strong link between them and Ha-lipa, a notorious kidnapper from Sandakan. He supported Al Habsi in kidnap-forr-ansom operations and is still at large,” Andrin said yesterday.
National Professors Council’s Politics, Security and International Affairs Cluster secretary Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Halim Sidek said Abu Sayyaf operations might be temporarily halted following Al Habsi’s death but this would not be the end of the group.
“It’s only a matter of time before new recruits are replaced.”
Halim said security measures off Sabah waters were not strong enough to combat the militants.
“The authorities must win the hearts of locals so they can feed information to the authorities.”