THE official tally of Malaysians left fighting alongside the Islamic State (IS) group in southern Philippines has been further reduced with the confirmed death of a seasoned fighter from Sabah.
Jeknal Adil’s death was only confirmed recently although it is understood that the 33-year-old was reportedly killed during a battle with Philippine military in Basilan, last July.
Jeknal assumed the nom de guerre Abu Shabah Al Muhajir when he joined the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), now an affiliation of IS, and was the first of two Malay-sians to head to the terror group’s stronghold in Basilan.
He and another wanted Malay-sian, Amin Baco, from Sabah, who has since gone off radar, had left the country to join ASG in 2010.
Jeknal and Amin joined three other Malaysians, who fled the country in 2014, as soon as they came under the radars of the country’s counter-terrorism operatives.
They formed part of the “Khatiba Muhajrin”, which comprises fighters from Indonesia and led by a Malaysian most-wanted, Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who was once a lecturer at Universiti Malaya.
Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said intelligence gathered indicated that Jeknal was killed during an ambush by Philippine armed forces.
Jeknal, who was involved in terrorism at 18, had undergone at least five physical training sessions in Tawau, Sabah, where he embraced the ideology of “Jihad Qital” (Jihad through war).
He also received military training at an Abu Sayyaf camp on Jolo island between September 2005 and March 2006.
“He was arrested on March 16, 2006, with another Indonesian militant, and was held under the now-defunct Internal Security Act at the Kamunting detention centre. He completed his restriction order on May 10, 2010, and made his way to southern Philippines about six months later,” Ayob said.
The New Straits Times was told that Jeknal, once again a wanted man, escaped the police dragnet when he returned to Sabah to facilitate the relocation of Amin’s wife and children to Mindanao.
Sources said Jeknal chose to leave his life in Sabah as he failed to obtain a Malaysian identification card.
“Technically, although he is regarded as a Malaysian, he doesn’t have citizenship. He was born in Sabah, but his father was a Filipino and his parents did not register his birth. Without an identification card, it will be difficult for him to get a job or get married, so he decided to leave.”
It was understood that Jeknal was part of an insurgent group that took part in several clashes with Philippine military in Jolo, Basilan and Mindanao in periods preceding his death.
His death was narrated in detail by IS propaganda magazine Rumiyah, released last month.
“Abu Shabah” was preparing breakfast for members of his camp when he heard the rumblings of heavy artillery headed their way, the report read.
He was hit by shelling from the military assault.
The fate of Mahmud, believed to be part of the IS-linked Maute group, battling Philippine military in Marawi City remained a question mark.
While some reports said he was killed in the earlier days of the siege, which began on May 23, Malaysian authorities believe he is alive.
Mahmud’s right-hand man, Malaysian bomb expert Mohd Najib Husen died in 2015 during a shoot-out with the military.
Another Malaysian, whose whereabouts remain unknown, is former Selayang Municipal Council officer Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee.
‘Wanted IS leader, members not in Sabah’
TAWAU: Wanted militant leader Isnilon Hapilon and other Islamic State (IS) group members from Marawi in Mindanao have not entered Sabah.
However, state police commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said authorities remained vigilant in facing the possibility of any militant, or Marawi residents, sneaking into Sabah to find refuge.
He said security forces under the Eastern Sabah Security Command had been keeping tabs on IS threats.
“We have been on alert... In fact we have increased asset strength at all areas under Eastern Sabah Safety Zone to ensure there is no influx of people from Marawi coming to hide here.
On the readiness of security forces in facing any such possibility following clashes between militants and Philippine security forces, he said: “From the operational and intelligence sides, efforts have been intensified. So far, there is nothing to indicate that Isnilon has entered or gone into hiding in our territory.”
Ramli said this after visiting victims of a fire in Kampung Hidayat, where a blaze on Saturday destroyed 250 houses, leaving over 1,500 people homeless.
On how many suspected militants had been arrested in Sabah so far, he said there had been “some previously”, but could not provide an exact number.