KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Eight suspected Abu Sayyaf terror group militants - Malaysians and Filipinos - have been captured in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian police arrested the southern Philippine-based militants including one of the Abu Sayaff leaders, Hajar Abdul Mubin, in an operation in Cheras on the eve of Malaysia's National Day on Aug 30.
Hajar, also known as Abu Asrie, was arrested with another Filipino, Abraham Embung, 29, and six Malaysians of Filipino descent from Sabah.
The 25-year-old Abu Asrie is believed to be a member of the Jolo-based Lucky 9 kidnap-for-ransom group with links to the Abu Sayyaf group based in jungles of Jolo and Basilan islands in southern Philippines.
The Malaysians, who are believed to be from Sandakan and working in Kuala Lumpur, were aged between 20 and 52.
Some of the suspects were security guards and were even members of the Civil Defence Corp or Rela, the sources said.
According to Philippines intelligence sources, the Lucky 9 gang was involved in kidnap for ransom activities in Jolo town.
They were known to kidnap victims for ransom payments of 10,000 pesos (S$265). Some members of the group have links with the Abu Sayyaf gunmen currently on the run in Jolo following a full scale war by Philippines security forces against the group responsible for numerous cross border kidnappings in east coast Sabah.
According to some sources, Abu Asrie was based in Basilan and had slipped into Malaysia in 2015 after meeting with Malaysian Islamic State militants Dr Mahmud Ahmad, Mohd Najib Hussein and Muhammad Joraimee in Basilan.
Dr Mahmud and several other Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Insalon Hapilon, were in the forefront with the Maute group in the attack on Marawi city in Mindanao.
The Marawi city attack was seen as a new front of the Islamic State militants' attempt to set up a caliphate in South-east Asia.