Malaysia arrests suspected Abu Sayyaf leader, 7 others

A handout photo made available by the Joint Coordinating, Monitoring, and Assistance Center of the GPH-MILF Peace Corridor on 06 June 2017 shows damaged buildings in Marawi City, Mindanao Island, southern Philippines, 05 June 2017. Clashes between militants and the Philippine Army began on 23 May when a military operation failed to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf who was being safeguarded by members of the Maute Group; both groups pledged alliance to IS. (EPA photo)

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian police arrested a suspected leader and seven members of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist group in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, a police source said on Sunday.

Police detained Hajar Abdul Mubin - otherwise known as Abu Asrie - in the Wednesday raid, according to the source, who was not authorised to speak to the media on the case.

Mr Hajar, a Filipino, was arrested along with one other Filipino and six Malaysians from the Borneo state of Sabah, which shares a porous maritime border with the Philippines.

The arrests were first reported by the English daily, The Star.

The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for bombings, beheadings, extortion and kidnap-for-ransom in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic Philippines.

The arrests were the latest in an ongoing crackdown on militancy by Muslim-majority Malaysia. More than 250 people have been arrested between 2013 and 2016 for suspected militancy linked to Islamic State.

Governments in Southeast Asia have been worried over the possible expansion of Islamic State in the region as battle-hardened militants return home after the collapse of their self-styled caliphate in the Middle East.

Militants loyal to Islamic State seized large parts of Marawi city in the southern Philippines in May. Some 620 militants, 136 soldiers and police and 45 civilians were killed in more than 100 days of fighting. 

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