The security forces hauled up a group of armed foreigners clad in military fatigues for encroaching into the waters off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Tuesday.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said the encroachment was believed to be due to problems occurring in southern Philippines.

He said the armed forces and the police surrounded and ordered them to lay down their arms and surrender.

"The situation is under control and the people have nothing to worry about," he said in a statement Wednesday night.

According to police sources, more than 100 armed foreigners clad in army camouflage uniforms suspected to be members of a militant group from southern Philippines landed on the Lahad Datu's shore by pump boats.

However until 10 pm Wednesday night, the authorities have yet to confirm whether they were planning a terror attack in Lahad Datu.

They were also tight lipped on whether the group's arrival had anything to do with the detention of three men, including former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee Yazid Sufaat last week and the killing of a Malaysian Mohd Noor Fikrie Abdul Kahar, 26, by the security forces in Davao, southern Philippines on Dec 14 last year.

In BAGAN SERAI, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the armed forces had been directed to work closely with the police over the incident.

"We don't want our national defence elements to be exposed and we must ensure that action is taken to keep the national defence and security at high level," he told reporters after receiving a memorandum supporting Barisan Nasional (BN) from 28 non-governmental organisations.

Ahmad Zahid said he had ordered Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin to issue a statement on the matter.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Special Task Force (Operations and Counter Terrorism) director Datuk Mohamad Fuzi Harun said Sabah police were investigating the incident and it was too early for him to comment on the incident.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said a news conference might be held on the incident Thursday.