KUALA LUMPUR: Two Filipino militants who were involved in the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion were arrested by federal police in Semporna last week.
The suspects who are members of the Royal Sulu Force (RSF) were among those who had fled to the South Philippines following their defeat at the hands of Malaysian forces in 2013.
They are among the 12 Filipinos and a Malaysian who were arrested for militancy by the Special Branch’s counter terrorism division (CTD).
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun yesterday said the two suspects held on March 11 in Semporna were also behind the recruitment of new RSF members and had sold membership cards of the group to Filipinos living in Sabah.
“They escaped after the defeat during the Lahad Datu conflict but slipped into Semporna again in November last year to revive the RSF’s activities in Sabah.” he said.
Mohamad Fuzi said also held in Semporna were three other Filipinos and a Malaysian who were members of the South Philippines Maute militant group.
He said investigations showed that the suspects were involved in the 2017 Marawi skirmish in the Philippines.
Mohamad Fuzi said the men had also provided protection to other Maute members and several nationals from the Middle East who have gone into hiding in Sabah.
On the same day and on March 12 in Tambunan, Sabah, six men and a woman, all Filipinos aged between 23 and 63, were also held for their involvement with the Maute militants and for harbouring members of the Abu Sayaf militant group.
“Separately during this operation, we also detained 10 other Filipinos who did not possess valid travel documents. We have handed them to the Immigration Department for further action. With the latest arrests, we are confident of tracing and detaining the remnants of the Abu Sayaf and Maute militants who remain in hiding in Sabah.” he said.
Mohamad Fuzi said all 13 suspects who are aged between 23 and 63 are being held for investigations under laws of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
The Marawi skirmish occurred in May, 2017 when Maute and Abu Sayaf militants laid siege on the town before clashing with Philippine security forces.
The conflict lasted for five months when Philippines troops defeated the militants, including killing their commanders - Isnilon Hapilon and brothers, Omar and Abdullah Maute.
Hundreds of thousands of residents fled the town during the conflict which left over 1,000 people dead.