KOTA KINABALU: Eight Abu Sayyaf members, their wives and children have been arrested in an operation at a mangrove swamp in Beaufort.
The eight, including two men on the Philippines' wanted list, are suspected to have links to terrorist group Isis, state Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said on Monday (May 10).
He said, however, it was likely that these suspects were not linked to kidnap-for-ransom crimes in Sabah.
He said the suspects are believed to have fled here following an aggressive offensive by security forces in the Southern Philippines.
Hazani said the raid at about 3am on May 8 was conducted near Taman Seri Arjuna in Beaufort, following information provided by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
“We believe they have been here for over a year, based on the history of the Philippine military offensive," he said.
The two men on the Philippines' wanted list are Sansibar Besion, in his 40s, and Muayyar Binda, in his 30s.
He said police are trying to determine how they came into Sabah, and also to identify their local contacts and motives for being here.
The 21 children of the suspects were found to be familiar with the use of a finger sign that is known to be a symbol of loyalty to a terror group, he added.
“All suspects will be remanded until May 12, ” Hazani said, adding that anyone found to have helped and harboured them will also be arrested.
He said district police have been told to check squatter areas and new colonies in swamps to find out if any more of these fugitives are hiding in Sabah.