Sabah police: Abu Sayyaf cell with IS links crippled after one of Philippines’ most wanted men shot dead in Beaufort

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Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali (left) shows the pistols used by the suspects in the shootout yesterday morning. — Picture by Julia Chan
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali (left) shows the pistols used by the suspects in the shootout yesterday morning. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, May 18 — The police here have shot dead five people believed to be Abu Sayyaf members, including sub leader Mabar Binda, who was on the Philippines government’s ‘Wanted’ list for violent crimes in the southern part of the country.

Sabah Police commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the incident happened during a follow-up operation to May 8’s swoop on 37 people in the same Taman Seri Arjuna swamplands in Beaufort.

“We did the same ops yesterday, at 11.20am, where we heard that there were some people who had escaped the first round.

“When we got there, our men knocked on the door of one of the squatter houses but were met with hostile gunfire, which we immediately returned,” he said.

After the shootout, the police confirmed the identities of four men — Mabar Binda, JurakhdamBinda @Jura @ Abu Jar, Alsimar Sukarno and Abhirham Samsula @Samsed. The one unidentified man is believed to be the group’s transporter. Two were armed with pistols while three used machetes.

“We believe they escaped during the last operation and came back here because they had nowhere else to go. This area is close to an estate so they can easily run and hide. We have told the district police chief to completely demolish the structures in the area,” Hazani said.

The police also found that the group were using Colt .45 pistols, typically unavailable here but obtainable in neighbouring countries. Bullet casings, magazines and machetes were also seized for evidence.

Hazani said that with the shooting of Mabar, security authorities believed they have successfully crippled this Abu Sayyaf cell, with links to Islamic State (IS).

The group is believed to have more insiders, moles, sympathisers and members in Sabah, some of whom are still masquerading as religious leaders and recruiting people.

“So even with their deaths, we will continue our investigations to weed out their people.

“We believe there is a high chance of some retaliation targeting security forces when they hear that one of their leaders and their members have been shot dead. We will be on high alert, so we ask the people not to worry, but be mindful and notify the police of any suspicious activities,” said Hazani.

On May 8, following a tip-off from a Philippines intelligence unit and ESSCom, the police conducted a special raid on the area where 37 people, including 21 children and women — said to be the families of the Abu Sayyaf men — were rounded up.

The families are believed to have entered and stayed in Sabah for over a year and settled in the swamplands on the west coast where security is thought to be laxer.

The Abu Sayyaf men are alleged to have been involved in violent clashes, bombing and kidnap for ransom activities in southern Philippines.

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