A SELF-C0NFESSED kin of dead terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon from the Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao has been arrested for allegedly recruiting his countrymen working in Malaysia to fight in the southern Philippines.
According to the News Straits Times
, the arrested suspect’s confessed recruitment work had raised worries among security officials that the terror group might attempt to recapture Marawi City, which has since been recaptured by government troops after terrorists launched a siege there in May this year.
The Straits Times said the unnamed 50-year-old Filipino man was picked up on Dec. 6 in Kuala Lumpur in a special operation conducted by Malaysia’s Counter Terrorism Unit.
He was among 20 people—seven Malaysians, seven Filipinos, five Indonesians and a north African—arrested in Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Johor and Selangor, between Nov. 30 and Dec. 15 for their alleged involvements in terrorist activities.
There was no immediately available comment from Philippine security officials nor from the defense establishment.
The latest security swoop meant that 105 suspected militants have been nabbed in Malaysia this year. The authorities arrested 119 suspected militants last year, both Malaysians and foreigners, with many of them enticed by the ideology of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
More than 400 suspected militants have been detained since 2013, with many of the locals behind bars and the foreigners deported.
Malaysia’s police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun, referring to the Filipino detainee, said in a statement on Friday: “The suspect has family ties with a high-ranking ASG leader.
“He was believed to be recruiting his fellow countrymen in Kepong [Selangor] to join the terror group in southern Philippines.”
A intelligence source told The Straits Times the suspect—whose exact affinity to Hapilon was not established in the Straits Times report—told investigators he had been recruiting Filipinos living in Malaysia since 2016.
“He admitted that he is related to Isnilon Hapilon and said that the dead relative was one of the commanders during the fight in Marawi,” the Straits Times source was quoted as saying.
Government troops lifted the siege of Marawi on Mindanao island in October, five months after some 1,000 terrorists stormed the city in what is one of the biggest security crises in the Philippines.
More than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were killed in the conflict.