16 January, 2010

U.S. Embassy in Malaysia warns of possible attack in Sabah

Warden Notice – Travel in Sabah
January 15, 2010

There are indications that both criminal and terrorist groups are
planning or intend acts of violence against foreigners in eastern Sabah, notwithstanding the Government of Malaysia’s increased ability to detect, deter and prevent such attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, based in the southern Philippines, has kidnapped foreigners in eastern Sabah in the past. Criminal
elements are also responsible for kidnapping and piracy committed against foreigners. Of present concern are the resorts (and transportation to and from) located in isolated areas of eastern Sabah, including Semporna and the islands of Mabul and Sipadan.

Please avoid or use extreme caution in connection with any travel in these areas or locations.



A "warden notice" posted on the embassy's website (malaysia.usembassy.gov/), dated Friday, said resorts located in isolated areas of eastern Sabah, a state bordering the southern Philippines, were of "present concern."

It identified areas of eastern Sabah including Semporna and the islands of Mabul and Sipadan, as well as travel to and from the area.

The warning said there were indications criminal and terrorist groups "are planning or intend acts violence against foreigners," notwithstanding the Malaysian government's ability to detect and prevent such attacks.

"Please avoid or use extreme caution in connection with any travel in these areas or locations," it said.

The state's island resorts are popular with tourists.

The warden notice said the Philippines-based, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group had kidnapped foreigners in eastern Sabah in the past. Criminal elements were also responsible for kidnapping and piracy, it said.

Malaysia's deputy police chief, Ismail Omar, said his officers were taking all necessary steps.

"I have alerted all my officers in Sabah to boost security at all these places," he told Reuters.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Kuala Lumpur said such statements were issued periodically and the latest warning was posted "to enable people to make informed decisions about their security."

The spokesman said there was a possibility the warning would be upgraded into an official travel advisory that would be issued by the U.S. State Department.

The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnapping and beheading hostages, was nearly eliminated after the death of its founder and leader, Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, in the late 1990s.

It sprang back to life when about 20 Malaysian and Western tourists were kidnapped on Sipadan island in 2000. Analysts have said that proceeds from kidnappings may revive the small but deadly group.

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