KUALA LUMPUR • For the past year, an immigration officer at the Sandakan airport in Sabah state has been accepting bribes to wave through Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants from Indonesia and the Philippines.
The 31-year-old woman is believed to have arranged for them to head to the southern Philippines via Sabah although they do not possess proper travel documents, reported The Star news site.
"She was instrumental in providing access into Sandakan to those with no valid documents, including ISIS militants," a source said.
"Those who do not have valid travel documents would go to the counter she was manning," unnamed sources told the New Straits Times daily. "For a sum of money, she would allow entry even if a traveller was using fake documents, or did not possess any travel document," one source said.
Police are investigating whether she was doing it purely for the money or if she herself has ties to ISIS. So far, she is known to have helped three ISIS militants to enter the country.
Criminologist P. Sundramoorthy from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang said the officer was possibly an empathiser - a person who shelters militants or facilitates their movements.
"They are just as dangerous (as fighters) because they are contributing to the acts of aggression and violence of ISIS," he added on Monday.
The officer was nabbed last Thursday.
When contacted by The Star, Immigration Department director- general Mustafar Ali said any misconduct by its officers would not be tolerated.
"We always remind our officers to abide by the law," he added.
Another six people were arrested for their alleged links to ISIS during a five-day operation which began last Wednesday in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur. Sources said the arrests in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan showed ISIS was aggressively using Sabah as a transit point to bring more fighters to the southern Philippines.
"The terror group intends to use southern Philippines as its Asian base. It is also the back-up destination for militants from South-east Asia who failed to go to Syria," a source told The Star.
Extremist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, which has professed loyalty to ISIS, are based in the southern Philippines. Regional security officials have warned that ISIS terrorists fleeing battle losses in the Middle East could be heading to South-east Asia, with Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines being a key destination.
Malaysian police arrested some 250 suspected militants between 2013 and last year. They included policemen, military officers, civil servants and students from international universities in Malaysia.