SEMPORNA (Sabah) – Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said today there is no credible evidence that elements of the IS militant group have gained a foothold in the Sabah east coast.
Nevertheless, he said, the security forces would remain vigilant because the waters off eastern Sabah often faced various security issues such as cross-border crime and entry of militants from the southern Philippines.
Hishammuddin said the leaders of certain militant and separatist groups in the southern Philippines had expressed loyalty last year to IS leader Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi.
These extremist elements could indirectly influence any group in Sabah through the established terrorist network, he told a news conference during a visit to the Tun Sharifah Rodziah forward base off Semporna.
He also said that the threat from the militants was also associated with five Malaysian militants now in hiding in the southern Philippines.
Hishammuddin said the government focused on militants seen as a threat so that it could address the matter in a comprehensive manner.
It was necessary for the government to make proactive preparations to address the issue of a plot by IS militants to establish an Islamic region in the Sulu Sea.
“The developments in the southern Philippines and the geopolitics in the South China Sea demand that we make proactive preparations, including with the participation of the other ASEAN countries,” he said.
Hishammuddin said he would leave for Beijing tomorrow to attend an informal meeting of ASEAN defence ministers and the government of China.
As the current chairman of ASEAN, Malaysia would emplace the security and defence agencies of the regional body in a position to handle any threat,
including from the IS, he said. – BERNAMA