KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Security forces in Sabah are closely monitoring for Abu Sayyaf militants trying to enter the state.
They are also checking whether any of the militants are already in Sabah, following the arrest of eight suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 30.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said there had been no threats or reports of Abu Sayyaf militants entering the state so far.
"But we are being vigilant and are constantly monitoring the situation," he said.
He said the eight individuals arrested were members of a group that managed to escape in 2015, before the conflict in Marawi in the southern Philippines as well as the military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf there.
Asked whether Esscom suspected that the militants could be living among Sabahans, especially in the east coast settlements or squatter areas, Hazani said there was no information on that.
"However, it doesn't mean we are not checking. We do not have information on them being here with the communities but we are keeping a close watch," he told The Star.
The eight, including Abu Sayaff leader Hajar Abdul Mubin, were arrested in an operation 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.
According to sources, 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.