KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 ― The geographical position of Tawau, Sabah which is located in a triangle between Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia is believed to be the main factor why the Daesh militants have chosen the region’s waters as the main route to infiltrate the southern Philippines by sea.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police were aware of the tendency of the militants to take advantage of the situation and therefore, had increased surveillance and security in Tawau.
He said the police knew they (the militants) used Tawau, Sabah, Pulau Sebatik, Indonesia and the southern Philippines as entry point to join their group in the southern Philippines.
“So, we will place our ‘antenna’ (our members) in the region to cripple their access to the southern Philippines,” he told reporters after a monthly assembly involving departmental heads at the Federal Police Headquarters (Bukit Aman) here today.
Khalid said the militants wanted to take advantage of Tawau’s economic activities and use it to mask their presence by blending in with the locals.
“However, I deny allegations of Sabah being a transit point for the militant group which instead, uses Tawau’s strategic position in the triangle as a transit point,” he added.
He was referring to the police’s recent success in foiling militant attempts to smuggle their members out of the country to join their group in southern Philippines.
In that case, the police detained a 31-year-old Filipino man in Kota Kinabalu and a 27-year-old woman from Selangor.
The couple was planning to travel to Sandakan before sneaking into southern Philippines to join Daesh leader, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who is now affiliated with Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon.
It is understood that Mahmud is actively recruiting new members in the southern Philippines, and the IGP said the Malaysian police were aware of this.
“We know he (Mahmud) is influencing local residents, Indonesians and Thais to engage in militant training there (southern Philippines) and we are constantly monitoring all activities.
“We are also working closely with the Philippine authorities to address this issue,” he said.
Statistics from 2001 to 2016 have shown that the police detained 537 militants of which, 264 were influenced by Daesh elements. ― Bernama