KOTA KINABALU: Marine police have arrested 37 people who are believed to be fleeing the conflict in southern Philippines in the waters off the east coast Sandakan district over the past three days.
Sandakan marine police chief Asst Supt Mazre Che Mahmod said eight Filipino nationals were detained when a patrol intercepted a boat in the waters off Nunuyan at about 12.30am on Sept 20.
Barely 12 hours later, marine police intercepted another boat near a swamp also at Nunuyan with 20 Filipino nationals on board.
He said marine police intercepted another boat at Pamaguan at about 12.30pm on Sept 22 transporting nine Filipino nationals.
ASP Mazre said the authorities were on heightened alert for people from southern Philippines trying to slip into Sabah following a military offensive in Jolo island.
“There is a possibility that those in the affected areas may try to get to Sabah in the wake of the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf as well as drug dealers in southern Philippines,” he added.
The arrests came just days after police detained a 33-year-old Filipino national after they seized 30 M16 bullets, a 65cm-long sword, walkie-talkie sets, handphones and military fatigues from his house in Kampung Mangkalinau, Sandakan.
Also detained was the man’s 13-year-old daughter.
Sabah CID chief Senior Asst Comm Salehhudin Abdul Rahman said police were investigating if the man had links to militant groups in southern Philippines.
In a related development, ASP Mazre said marine police recovered 629 packets of cooking oil hidden rubber mats in Tanjung Lihak Lihak, Tabangki, on Sept 20.
He said the cooking worth RM1,572 was about to be smuggled to the southern Philippines when police stumbled upon the cache hidden on a beach area there.
We're sorry, this article is unavailable at the moment. If you wish to read this article, kindly contact our Customer Service team at 1-300-88-7827. Thank you for your patience - we're bringing you a new and improved experience soon!