Fears Militant Leaders Fleeing War-Torn Marawi Could Head To Sabah


LAHAD DATU: Malaysian security officials have put out a full alert for top Filipino militants Isnilon Hapilon and Abdullah Maute, fearing the duo may flee war-torn Marawi City (in southern Mindanao) and hide in Sabah.

Eastern Sabah Security Command Commander, Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid Thursday said they fear that Isnilon and Abdullah may pose as illegal immigrants or fishermen to slip undetected into the country.


In a statement where he also announced 16 other individuals wanted by Malaysian security forces, Wan Bari said based on intelligence reports and information received from their counterparts in the Philippines, they included Isnilon and Abdullah in the Wanted List as they could be fugitives.

“We fear Isnilon and Abdullah could flee the war torn city to escape to other countries including Malaysia using Sabah as the offensive against the militants by the Philippines military intensifies,” he said.

Isnilon ascended the ranks of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group to become its second in command, and is purportedly the designated leader of the Islamic State group’s Southeast Asia branch last year.

He is included on the United States Department of Justice department’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” list, with a US$5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Abdullah is part of the Maute family who are the local terrorist group based in Lanao del Sur and known for carrying out several bombings and kidnappings before they launched the attack on Marawi.

They have also pledged allegiance to international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), carrying and raising ISIS black flags and insignia.

Wan Bari also disclosed that most on the Wanted List were wanted for cross border crime which included kidnap for ransom.

“They are wanted by us as well as the Philippines who have somehow managed to elude arrests for their criminal activities,” said Bari, who is the outgoing commander of ESSCom.

All the 18 wanted men are Filipinos though some on the list are believed to have been knocked off previously but whose deaths could not be confirmed.

Wan Bari appealed to the public to be on the alert and to provide the necessary information that could lead to the captures of the wanted criminals.

He said informants could contact the ESSCom operation centre at 089-863181 or through WhatsApp vide 013-880 3585 or 019-230 5909 or to contact the nearest police station.