On the lookout for foreign extremists entering Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Detecting extremists passing through Sabah, who move under the guise of ordinary “migrants” between Indonesia and the Philippines, has been keeping security forces on their toes.

Over the past year, foreign extremists have entered the state, with some even looking for work in the interior.

The money they earn in Sabah is used to sustain them later at Abu Sayyaf camps in Jolo.

Comm Datuk Hazani Ghazali, in an interview prior to his appointment as Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order director on Thursday, noted that so far these extremists have only used Sabah to hide or as a transit point.

“It is not really serious because they are not targeting Sabah. They are hiding by keeping a low profile when they slip into the state,” he said.

The former Sabah police chief said that over the years the Special Branch has been able to detect and arrest some of these extremists.

A lot of monitoring and action, he said, was based on shared intelligence between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Such information had led to many successes including the arrest of an improvised explosive device expert.

In 2018 and 2019, four foreigners linked to various extremist groups were arrested.

He said Abu Sayyaf gunmen who were hiding in the southwest of Beaufort were either arrested or killed in a shootout earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Comm Hazani said they managed to stop an Abu Sayyaf plan to kidnap plantation owners after two suspects were killed in a shootout in Sandakan two weeks ago.

He said the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) and the special branch were constantly coordinating to monitor and act against these extremists.

“We are always gathering information and reconfirming with other countries before we take appropriate action.

“We are always on the alert, we have to work hard and public help is always needed,” said Comm Hazani, who previously served as Esscom commander before becoming Sabah Police Commissioner last year.

Various extremist groups including Abu Sayyaf and more recently Jemaah Ansharut Daulah members have been known to hide out in Sabah to evade Indonesian and Philippines security forces.

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