Malaysia arrests 7 Filipinos suspected of Abu Sayyaf links

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police said Thursday they have arrested seven Filipinos believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, as part of a crackdown on suspected terrorists in the country.

National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the seven men, aged between 22 and 38, worked as security guards with private companies in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas. He said a 22-year-old suspect had formerly engaged in battles against Filipino troops and was involved in kidnappings in southern Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, is supportive of the Islamic State terror group and blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the United States and the Philippines.

Mohamad Fuzi said in a statement that the men sneaked into Malaysia from eastern Sabah state on Borneo island, which is a short boat ride from the southern Philippines, in September 2015 and used false travel documents to fly to Kuala Lumpur.

He said their arrests came from information obtained following the Aug. 30 detention of eight suspected Abu Sayyaf members — two Filipinos and six Malaysian. Police have said one of the Filipinos was planning to attack the Aug. 30 closing ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games as well as an Independence Day parade the next day.

Fuzi said Thursday that police had detained 41 foreign terror suspects this year alone. Since 2013, police in Malaysia have detained more than 300 people believed to be linked to the Islamic State group.

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