KUALA LUMPUR: Eight terror suspects, including six members of the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf Group, were arrested in a series of raids recently, Malaysian police said on Friday (Nov 16).
The men were arrested in a sting operation conducted by the counter-terrorism division of the police's Special Branch between Oct 30 and Nov 12 in Sabah and Putrajaya, Inspector-General of Police Fuzi Harun said in a statement.
The suspects comprised seven Filipinos and one Malaysian.
One of the Filipino suspects was arrested in Ranau, Sabah. Police said he was recruiting children in the Philippines to be used as human shields.
"The 35-year-old suspect played the role of recruiting children to join Abu Sayyaf to be used as human shields during fighting with the Philippine military in Basilan," said Fuzi.
"He has also been involved in beheading hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf," he added.
The man, who was working as a construction worker, was arrested in a sting operation that also netted another Filipino Abu Sayyaf suspect, aged 46, who was working as a technician.
Both men are also involved in kidnap-for-ransom activities in Sabah and the southern Philippines.
"At the time of the arrests, both suspects were planning to escape to southern Philippines to avoid being arrested by Malaysian authorities," said Fuzi.
The arrests come in the wake of a Sep 11 kidnapping of two Indonesian fishermen in the waters off Sabah.
Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnapping people for ransom and beheading its hostages when victims cannot pay up.
The group ply the Sulu Seas and make bold incursions into the east coast of Sabah to snatch their victims.
Another Abu Sayyaf member, aged 30, was arrested in Kinarut, Sabah. He was a sub-commander and right-hand man of the group's commander Furuji Indama, said police.
Another three Abu Sayyaf suspects, aged between 27 and 51 and who were working as labourers, were arrested in Tenom, Sabah.
"One of the suspects, aged 34, has expertise in producing firearms for the use of Abu Sayyaf," said Fuzi.
Another Filipino man, 60, who worked as a petty trader in a night market, was arrested for his involvement in protecting one of the suspects who was arrested on Nov 8 as he was trying to run away from a police dragnet.
In addition, a 38-year-old Malaysian man, who worked as an agent selling gold bars, was arrested in Putrajaya for channelling funds to a Malaysian Islamic State member Akel Zainal in Syria in 2017 to fund terror activities.