ZAMBOANGA CITY: Malaysian authorities launched a massive manhunt for a former university lecturer turned militant leader accused of spiriting fighters from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia into Mindanao to establish an Islamic Caliphate alongside other jihadist and rebel groups in the southern Philippines.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said police were working closely with their counterparts in the Philippines to track down former Universiti Malaya lecturer and militant Dr Mahmud Ahmad, according to Malaysian media reports.
Mahmud was allegedly tasked by the Islamic State to arrange the safe passage of recruits. Khalid said militants may be using the sea route in Tawau in Sabah to cross into southern Philippines.
Tawau is often used for numerous activities, including trade and fishing.
“It is possible that militants would also use the same route to get to southern Philippines as Tawau is located between Indonesia and Philippines. However, Sabah is not a transit point for terrorists. They pass through Tawau not because Sabah is a transit point for militants, but because that route is bustling with economic activity and people travelling about. It is easier for militants to mask their movements when it is busy,” Malaysian newspaper The Star quoted Khalid as saying.
He said that Islamic State is also threatening Malaysian government leaders, including Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hus¬sein and senior members of the Cabinet.
“There are still threats against our leaders, but we are closely monitoring the situation,” Khalid said, quoting fresh intelligence reports. “What is happening in other countries…we don’t want that to happen in Malaysia. We will always take proactive measures when it comes to fighting the IS,” Khalid said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered military forces to crush and finish off rebel and jihadist groups tied to the Islamic State.
The military has mobilized thousands of troops in Mindanao to fight the Abu Sayyaf and other allied groups.