Foreign militants cross Sabah to Mindanao
MALAYSIAN authorities launched a massive manhunt for a former university lecturer turned militant leader accused of spiriting fighters from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia into Mindanao to establish an Islamic Caliphate alongside other jihadist and rebel groups in southern Philippines.
Inspector-general of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said police were working closely with their counterparts in the Philippines to track down former Universiti Malaya lecturer and militant Dr Mahmud Ahmad, according to Malaysian media reports.
Mahmud was allegedly tasked by the Islamic State with arranging for the safe passage of recruits. Khalid said militants may be using the sea route in Tawau in Sabah to cross into southern Philippines.
Tawau is often used for numerous activities, including trade and fishing. “It is possible that militants would also use the same route to get to southern Philippines as Tawau is located between Indonesia and Philippines. However, Sabah is not a transit point for terrorists. They pass through Tawau not because Sabah is a transit point for militants, but because that route is bustling with economic activity and people travelling about. It is easier for militants to mask their movements when it is busy,” Malaysian newspaper The Star quoted Khalid as saying.
He said that Islamic State is also threatening Malaysian government leaders, including Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hus¬sein and senior members of the Cabinet.
“There are still threats against our leaders, but we are closely monitoring the situation,” Khalid said, quoting fresh intelligence reports. “What is happening in other countries... we don’t want that to happen in Malaysia. We will always take proactive measures when it comes to fighting the IS,” Khalid said.
Destroy Abu Sayyaf, Jihadist Groups In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte also ordered military forces to crush and finish off rebel and jihadist groups tied to the Islamic State.
The military has mobilized thousands of troops in Mindanao to fight the Abu Sayyaf and other allied groups. Military chief Eduardo Año said at least 51 battalions have been tapped to carry out Duterte’s order, who was perceived by some as soft on rebels, but hard on drug users.
“Not in our history there has been that massive deployment of our troops,” Año said, adding, the goal of the new government offensive is to wipe out these Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups. “We are going to make sure that our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf will be quick.”
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ansarul Khilafah, Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, Al-khobargroup, including so-called rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, among others, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an effort to establish a caliphate in Mindanao. These groups operate in the troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Supporters of ISIS ideology in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur display the Daesh flag in this undated photo sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.