Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Malaysia Probes Links Of Arrested Terror Suspects To Abu Sayyaf, Al-Qaeda

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 May) Malaysian authorities have detained at least 12 people with suspected links to the Indonesian terrorist group Darul Islam and were investigating them if they have connections with the Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

It said 10 Indonesians and two Malaysians were arrested off the coasts of Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah, southwest of Tawi-Tawi island in the southern Philippines after months of surveillance.

It was not immediately known if they had come from Indonesia or the southern Philippines, where security forces were pursuing members of the Jemaah Islamiya, tagged as behind two deadly Bali attacks in the past.

Malaysian police seized several weapons and documents, including bomb-making instructions downloaded from the Internet, the Kuala Lumpur-based tabloid The Star reported on its website Tuesday.

It said authorities were investigating whether the men have contacts or links with the al-Qaeda terror network or the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for two cross-border kidnappings in Sabah in 2000 and the spate of deadly bomb attacks in the southern Philippines since 1994.

"Police are investigating if Darul Islam had links with the Abu Sayyaf terror group based in the southern Philippines and the al-Qaeda movement led by Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States," it said, quoting unnamed police sources.

It said the Darul Islam could be planning attacks on several neighboring countries with Malaysia as its transit point. Malaysian authorities did not say if the Philippines is among the target, but suspected terrorists in the past have used the southern region to illegally cross into the Sulu archipelago and Mindanao.

Army Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, Jolo island military commander, said operations against the Abu Sayyaf are going on and that security forces were tracking down members of the group.

"There is an ongoing operation in Jolo and nearby islands and troops are tracking down members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group," Aleo, who is supervising the hunt, told the Zamboanga Journal by phone.

General Aleo said they would also investigate whether the Abu Sayyaf has any links with the Darul Islam. "We will look into that reports about the arrested terrorists in Sabah. We will coordinate with the proper authorities about this," he said.

Malaysian authorities did not say when the 12 were captured, but said it was the biggest success against terrorism since their crackdown five years ago on Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM) which had links with the Jemaah Islamiah terror network.

One of the arrested Malaysian is a religious teacher who graduated from Syria, while the other was a graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.

The Abu Sayyaf is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations and Washington has offered as much as $10 million bounty for the capture of the group's chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and other known leaders.

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