New Islamic State terror cell using Sabah as transit point uncovered

New Islamic State terror cell using Sabah as transit point uncovered
Counter Terrorism officers arresting the 31-year-old Philippines national in Kota Kinabalu on Jan 13.

KUALA LUMPUR - Bukit Aman has uncovered a new Islamic State (IS) terror cell using Sabah as a transit point under the orders of former Universiti Malaya lecturer and militant Dr Mahmud Ahmad.

The revelation follows the arrests of a Filipino man, two Bangladeshi men and a Malaysian woman.

All are believed to be members of the cell.

The suspected militants were detained following raids by the Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur on Jan 13 and Jan 19.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the first suspect was a 31-year-old Filipino who was picked up in Kota Kinabalu on Jan 13.

The Filipino - who was described as the cell's chief recruiter - was working as a watch peddler when he was picked up.

"Initial investigations have revealed that he was taking orders from Dr Mahmud," he said in a statement on Monday.

The second suspect is a 27-year-old Malaysian woman from Selangor who was recruited by the first suspect via social media, added the IGP.

"She was arrested along with the first suspect in Kota Kinabalu. She took a flight to Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and we believe she was planning to fly to Sandakan before travelling to southern Philippines," he said.

Khalid added that the woman claimed she was planning to marry her recruiter, and said that the remaining suspects were two Bangladeshi men aged 27 and 28.

"They have connections to IS cells in Bangladesh as well. The duo were also recruited by the first suspect," he said.

Dr Mahmud has been tasked by IS to arrange the safe passage of new recruits from Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar to Marawi City, Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

The country's top cop also said that Dr Mahmud was planning to use Sabah as a transit point for new IS recruits from South-East Asia and South Asia before booking safe passage for them to the southern Philippines.

He added that intelligence gathered has indicated that Dr Mahmud's cell has been combined with the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon Hapilon.

"Like Dr Mahmud, Isnilon has also sworn a 'bai'ah' or oath of allegiance to IS supremo Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi. Aside from Dr Mahmud, two other prominent cell members are Darul Islam Sabah member Amin Bacho and Joraimee Awang," said Khalid.

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