Malaysians in cahoots with Sayyaf?
Published on: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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KOTA KINABALU: Seven foreign terrorists, including Malaysians, were spotted recently with an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader wanted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in a Sulu village, a Philippine terrorism expert told Daily Express.

Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research Professor Rommel Banlaoi said the foreign fighters are waiting for financial support to make improvised bombs.

“The Abu Sayyaf faction headed by sub-leader Hatib Hajan @ Sawadjaan with seven suspected foreign terrorists, including Malaysians, were monitored in Barangay [village] Kabbon Takkas, Patikul, Sulu,” Rommel said.

“The said foreign militants were reportedly awaiting funding support from abroad for the purchase of explosive components for the manufacture of IEDs [improvised explosive devices],” said Rommel, citing information from an intelligence officer in the Philippine Government.

Hatib is one of 18 Filipinos wanted by Esscom for various transborder crimes such as piracy and kidnapping.

Rommel did not say where the other foreign militants were from but Indonesians made up the bulk of foreign militants during the 2017 Marawi war. Scores of Indonesians are reportedly still in southern Philippines.

The Philippine army’s Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, said the army had also got the information on the spotting of the Malaysians and Hatib.

“We are in the process of having that information validated by other sources,” Besana told Daily Express, which has also contacted Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division for comment.

It cannot be immediately established whether the Malaysian militants are the six who were reported by a US news website as having assisted in the Philippines’ first suicide bombing in Basilan which took 10 lives.

The bombing was carried out on July 31 at a security checkpoint in Lamitan town and was claimed by the Islamic State terror group.

ISIS identified the perpetrator as a Moroccan named as Abu Kathir Al-Maghribi and published his image on its propaganda outlet Amaq.

According to that December 2018 report by this writer citing tips also from Rommel, the Abu Sayyaf masterminded the Basilan suicide bombing with help from the Moroccan and Malaysian foreign terrorist fighters.

“A government intelligence report indicated that as early as July 19, 2018, Abu Fati [nom de guerre of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Mike Lijal] and four others were planning to conduct a bombing operation in Lamitan. 

“On June 30, 2018, six Malaysian nationals arrived in Tuburan, Basilan to assist in the terror plot in Lamitan,” Banlaoi said in that report.

Two days after the attack, the Philippine army arrested a Filipino ustaz or Islamic religious teacher in connection with the Lamitan bombing.

“Government operatives arrested the 58-year old ustaz because of tips coming from informants that he had full knowledge of the bombing,” said Banlaoi further in that report.

“The ustaz facilitated the entry of the aforementioned Malaysian foreign fighters who came to Basilan from Sabah. They arrived after the Marawi war.”

A lull in kidnappings for almost two years in eastern Sabah was broken in September last year when the Abu Sayyaf abducted two Indonesian fishermen from their boat in waters off Semporna and taken to Sulu. One escaped in December while the other was released by the Abu Sayyaf this month.

On Dec 6 last year, a day after the Indonesian fisherman escaped, suspected Abu Sayyaf abducted two Indonesian and one Malaysian fishermen from their trawler in waters off Kinabatangan and taken also to Sulu. No ransom demand has been reported yet for their release.

The worst kidnapping in eastern Sabah occurred in 2000 when 21 people, including 10 westerners, were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf, which is designated as a terror organisation by the US and Philippine governments. - Zam Yusa


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