Malaysian police have detained seven Filipinos suspected of involvement with the Abu Sayyaf militant group, an official said Thursday, the latest arrest of extremist suspects in the country.
The seven men, aged between 22 and 38, were working as private security guards in and around the capital Kuala Lumpur, said national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
One had fought Filipino troops and was previously involved in abductions in the southern Philippines. Police did not give details about the other suspects.
The arrests last week bring to 41 the number of foreigners suspected of being ‘terrorist fighters’ who have been detained in Malaysia this year, he said.
Fears have been growing in Malaysia that Muslim militants are ramping up their activities, inspired by the Islamic State group and a conflict in the Philippine city of Marawi between followers of the jihadists and authorities.
‘The police will continue to launch operations to detect and catch foreign terrorist elements that infiltrate Malaysia,’ Mohamad Fuzi said in a statement.
The men caught in the latest arrests had entered Malaysia via Sabah state on Borneo island in September 2015 before heading to the capital city using fake documents, the police chief said.
The Abu Sayyaf are Islamist militants engaged mainly in kidnappings for ransom who have operated out of the southern Philippines for years.
They have raided Malaysian parts of Borneo, not far from the southern Philippines, and abducted foreign tourists.
One faction has pledged allegiance to IS and joined militants battling security forces since May in Marawi, the main Muslim city in the mostly Catholic Philippines.
Malaysian police earlier this month said they had arrested 19 suspects including 11 foreigners who had been plotting to disrupt the 2017 Southeast Asian Games and the country's independence day celebrations.