Malaysian police arrested a suspected leader and seven members of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist group in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, a police source said on Sunday. Police detained Hajar Abdul Mubin – otherwise known as Abu Asrie – in the Wednesday raid, according to the source, who was not authorised to speak to the media on the case.
Hajar, a Filipino, was arrested along with one other Filipino and six Malaysians from the Borneo state of Sabah, which shares a porous maritime border with the Philippines. The arrests were first reported by the English daily, The Star. The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for bombings, beheadings, extortion and kidnap-for-ransom in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines.
The arrests were the latest in an ongoing crackdown on militancy by Muslim-majority Malaysia. More than 250 people have been arrested between 2013 and 2016 for suspected militancy linked to Islamic State. Governments in Southeast Asia have been worried over the possible expansion of Islamic State in the region as battle-hardened militants return home after the collapse of their self-styled caliphate in the Middle East.
Militants loyal to Islamic State seized large parts of Marawi city in the southern Philippines in May. Some 620 militants, 136 soldiers and police and 45 civilians were killed in more than 100 days of fighting.