KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police arrested seven Filipino security guards suspected of being members of the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), authorities announced on Thursday (Sep 21).
The men, who were nabbed in a counter-terror raid on Sep 14, sneaked into the country via Sandakan, Sabah, using false documents, according to the police.
“All seven suspects aged between 22 and 38 worked as security guards at several private companies around Selangor and Kuala Lumpur,” Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said a press statement.
One of the suspects, aged 22, is a member of ASG who was involved in clashes with the Philippine military, as well as kidnappings in southern Philippines.
According to an intelligence source, one of the security guards worked for Syabas, a major water utility company. No weapons were found on the suspects when they were arrested, said the source.
TERROR SUSPECTS AS SECURITY GUARDS
The discovery of the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf suspects working as security guards in Malaysia raises worries of a new trend amongst terror suspects to hide their identities by taking on the job of security personnel themselves, said the intelligence source.
“There is a possibility that this is a new trend by them (terror suspects) to hide their identities from authorities by working as security guards. This job also helps them get easy access to weapons as well as confidential information,” the intelligence source told Channel NewsAsia.
“This is a dangerous development as security guards are people who are trusted by the public.”
Their arrest comes following the Aug 30 arrests of members of an Abu Sayyaf cell which had planned to launch terror attacks on the closing ceremony of the 29th SEA Games at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium and the 60th Independence Day ceremony on Merdeka Square.
The source said the seven ASG suspects were also part of the plot to attack the SEA Games and Independence Day celebrations.
SUSPECTS CAME TO LOOK FOR WORK
Apart from their plan to launch attacks, the seven suspects also came to Malaysia to look for work.
“They came in Malaysia to look for work … their lives were being squeezed in Philippines to the point where their mother had to sell their land in the village to pay for their passage to Malaysia,” said the source.
There were no details on whether the seven suspects are related.
"Since the start of this year, a total of 41 foreigners who have been categorised as foreign terrorist fighters have been arrested by the Special Branch's counter terrorism division," said Fuzi.
"The Royal Malaysian police will continue to launch operations to trace and arrest foreign militants who infiltrate into Malaysia to take shelter, raise funds, launch attacks in the country or to turn Malaysia into a base to launch attacks in third countries."
(Additional reporting by Melissa Goh)