3 I.S. suspects join local jihadists
AT least three suspected members of the terrorist group Islamic State have mysteriously slipped into the country and have purportedly linked up with local militants in Mindanao for a still undetermined purpose, an informed source said Saturday.
The source, who asked not to be identified because of the nature of his work in the intelligence community, made the revelation after leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Kuala Lumpur and condemned the string of terrorist attacks from Paris to Mali.
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Muslim-majority Malaysia opened a fresh round of summitry in Kuala Lumpur by railing against the ideological mantle claimed by Islamic militants.
Three of these Islamist militants, the source said, are known to be Syrians and had been hiding out in Mindanao, but he declined to identify them.
The source said the Syrians were last seen in Central Mindanao and are believed to have met with Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco, who is a member of the Jemaah Islamiya and has pledged allegiance to the IS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Baco, believed to be a master bomb maker, is also suspected to be one of the leaders of the terrorist Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines, another IS affiliate.
The source said the Syrians are believed to have gone with unidentified Filipino jihadists to Jemaah Islamiya’s former base at Mount Cararao in Lanao del Sur, but they have since disappeared.
“The three Syrians were spotted in the Cararao complex in Lanao and stayed there for days, but at present they cannot be located,” the source said.
The source said they still have not determined how the Syrians slipped into the country, but it is typical for JI and IS supporters to enter via the country’s “back door” with northern Borneo.
The source said Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines is under the command of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, also known as Tokboy, a notorious kidnapper, bomb expert and former commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“The Ansar Khilafa terror wing wants to synchronized with their Malaysian counterpart to be able to establish a regional terror group,” the source said.
The arrival of the three Syrians bring to eight the number of international terrorists who are believed to have entered the country and are hiding out with Filipino extremists in Mindanao.
Aside from Baco, Malaysian Home Minister Dr. Ahmad Hamidi identified some of the terrorists as Malaysian jihadists Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, a University of Malaya lecturer; stationary shop owner Mohamad Najib Husen; former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39; and Jeknal Adil, 30.
Ahmad said the terrorists are associated with Daulah Islamiyah Asia Tenggara (Southeast Asia Islamiya Network) which has links to IS and arrived in Mindanao in 2013.
Last year, an active military officer confirmed the presence of the Malaysian jihadists, one of whom is Amin Baco, who was with ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon and Hatib Sawadjaan, another notorious bandit responsible for the ambush killing of dozens of soldiers in Sulu last year.
One of the jihadists is a member of the Malaysian Special Forces, who went absent without leave.
Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, Razak condemned the ideological mantle claimed by Islamic militants.
“The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed,” he told fellow Southeast Asian leaders. “They are terrorists.”
US President Barack Obama condemned the violence typified by the “appalling” jihadist hostage siege in Mali that left at least 27 dead, including an American citizen.
“This barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge,” he said in Kuala Lumpur, referring to global jihadism.
Obama and his counterparts are meeting in the Malaysian capital for round two in a week of back-to-back regional meetings.
The top-level diplomacy kicked off in Manila with a summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc.
Apec ended with an urgent call for cooperation against extremism following the attacks in Paris by Islamic State group adherents that killed 130.
Most of the same leaders have now shifted to Malaysia for the meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which expands Sunday into a broader forum including the United States, China, Russia and others.