Sabah's IS threat under control: Malaysia's defence minister

LABUAN - Proactive measures are needed to ensure that the Islamic State (IS) threat in Sabah does not turn serious, said Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

The Defence Minister, who is here on a three-day visit to evaluate the preparations and capabilities of the defence and security system in Sabah in facing security threats, said the IS threat was "under control at the mo­­ment".

"At least we are asking the questions and preparing ourselves - a far cry from what they did in Iraq and Syria where it was too late," he told reporters at the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) airbase here yesterday.

He said attention was needed on the growing influence of the IS threat in Sabah as there were Darul Islam militant elements in the state's east coast.

"Our intelligence shows that splinter groups have made the east coast of Sabah the place to spread their ideology which is in line with IS," said Hishammuddin, adding that armed groups from the southern Philippines such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf had made statements supporting the IS.

He said the MNLF led by Nur Misuari and the Sulu Sultanate army, were using the IS model.

"These threats have become more complex with the network between militants from Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines to form the South-East Asia IS which is known as the Katiban Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiah," he added.

Hishammuddin was briefed yesterday on the operations of the Hawk aircraft stationed here and the initiative to equip RMAF helicopters with weapons. He also monitored RMAF's No. 6 Squadron in the airbase.

He said five Nuri helicopters and five EC725 helicopters would be fitted with machine guns while another five Hawk aircraft would be equipped with Gatling guns.

Hishammuddin said three Hawks were already at the Labuan airbase while another two more were expected in April.

"It has been proposed that the Labuan airbase be upgraded to ensure the operations can be carried out effectively," he added.