March 13, 2017 2:41 pm JST

Malaysia arrests five Filipinos for suspected Islamic State links

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -- Malaysian police said on Monday they had arrested seven people, including five Filipinos, for suspected links to the Islamic State militant group.

The Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since armed gunmen linked to the Islamic State launched multiple attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Muslim-majority Malaysia arrested more than 250 people between 2013 and 2016 over suspected militant activities linked to Islamic State.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement most of the arrests were made during an operation in Sabah, on Borneo island, earlier this month.

A Philippine suspect with permanent residency in Malaysia was detained on suspicion of raising funds and channelling them to Mahmud Ahmad and Mohamad Joraimee Awang Raimee, two Malaysians who had joined up with the Islamic State in the southern Philippines, Khalid said.

One Philippine man was planning to travel to Syria to join up with the Islamic State there, while another was found to have pledged allegiance to Isnilon Hapilon, the Philippines' most-wanted man and leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.

Last June, militants who claimed to be fighting for Islamic State said in a video they had chosen Hapilon to lead their Southeast Asian faction.

Two other Philippine suspects, a man and a woman, were arrested for smuggling three Islamic State members from Malaysia and Indonesia to the southern Philippines through Sabah, Khalid said.

Police also arrested a Malaysian woman, who worked as an airport immigration official, on suspicion of helping individuals without valid travel documents, including Malaysian and Indonesian Islamic State followers, to enter and exit the Philippines through Sabah.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian man was arrested at Kuala Lumpur's main airport on Sunday after being deported from Turkey, Khalid said.

The suspect had travelled to Istanbul in October with plans to enter Syria with the help of an Islamic State member from Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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