Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Arrested Terror Man In Sabah Trained Terrorists In Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 31 May) Malaysian authorities said one of 12 terror suspects arrested in Sabah had trained terrorists in the southern Philippines, where Filipino security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

The suspects were believed to have links to the Indonesian terrorist group Darul Islam have been detained and authorities were investigating their links with the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group operating in the southern Philippines.

Philippine troops were pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for two cross-border kidnappings in Sabah in 2000 and the spate of deadly bomb attacks in the southern Philippines since 1994.

Malaysian police 10 Indonesians and two Malaysians were arrested off the coasts of Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah, southwest of Tawi-Tawi island in the southern Philippines after months of surveillance.

The Kuala Lumpur-based tabloid, The Star, reported Wednesday that one of the Indonesian suspects was trained by the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and that he also trained other terrorists in Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

It said the man was described by the Malaysian intelligence as dangerous and is a strong source of influence on other Darul Islam members.

"The regional intelligence agencies had been keeping tabs on the group, particularly its link with the Abu Sayyaf, a small violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. Several of its leaders had reportedly fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet war and were students and proponents of radical Islamic teaching," it said.

Malaysian police also seized from them several weapons and documents, including bomb-making instructions downloaded from the Internet.

It said the Darul Islam was planning attacks on several neighboring countries with Malaysia as its transit point. Malaysian authorities did not say if the Philippines is among the target, but suspected terrorists in the past have used the southern region to illegally cross into the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao.

Army Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, Jolo island military commander, said operations against the Abu Sayyaf are going on and that security forces were tracking down members of the group.

"There is an ongoing operation in Jolo and nearby islands and troops are tracking down members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group," Aleo, who is supervising the hunt, said.

General Aleo said they would also investigate whether the Abu Sayyaf has any links with the Darul Islam. "We will look into that reports about the arrested terrorists in Sabah. We will coordinate with the proper authorities about this," he said.

Malaysian authorities said the arrest of the suspects was the biggest success against terrorism since their crackdown five years ago on Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) which had links with the Jemaah Islamiah terror network.

One of the arrested Malaysian is a religious teacher who graduated from Syria, while the other was a graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.

The Abu Sayyaf is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and Washington has offered as much as $10 million bounty for the capture of the group's chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and other known leaders.

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