Islamic State Recruitment in Malaysia on Rise Despite Crackdown: Official


2015.03.09
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MY-mydin-620-March2015 Malaysian police deputy counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin speaks during an interview in Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 19, 2014.
AFP

The number of jihadists from Malaysia keeps growing, and authorities now have identified more than 500 Facebook accounts that try to recruit young Malaysians for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, a top counter-terrorist official said last week.

“In the first half of last year, we identified 30 Malaysians who went to Syria to join IS,” Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Police’s counter-terrorism branch, told The Star newspaper.

But despite a governmental crackdown on IS that began in 2014, “the number rose to 61, which included a 14-year-old boy who went with his parents, by the end of the year,” Ayob said.

“The tactic has changed, they are now recruiting the whole family. It is really worrying.”

The profiles on the Facebook accounts belonged to Malaysians and they described the extremist group favorably as “peaceful under the rule of caliphate Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi,” Ayob added, referring to the leader of IS.

“There is a Malaysian who warned his family that if they worked with the government or stopped him from joining the IS, he would return and would, if he had the chance, kill them,” Ayob said.

In February, Ayob went on record saying that the government’s war against IS in cyberspace needed to be intensified to prevent the group’s ideology from spreading in Malaysia via social media, the state-run Bernama news agency reported then.

This would require the involvement and cooperation of relevant state agencies and religious authorities, he said. Religious officials could help correct people’s misunderstandings of “jihad” and other Islamic terms skewed by IS online, he told Bernama.

Pro-IS accounts flood Twitter

As The Star was breaking the story about pro-IS Facebook accounts targeting Malaysians, the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, on Friday released a new study into IS’s online presence via another powerful social media tool: Twitter.

From September 2014 through December 2014, at least 46,000 Twitter accounts were being used by IS supporters worldwide, although the accounts were not all active simultaneously, according to the report.

“Thousands of accounts have been suspended by Twitter since October 2014, measurably degrading [IS’s] ability to project its propaganda to wider audiences,” J.M. Berger, one of the co-authors,” said in a blog on the Brookings’ website that accompanied the study’s release.

“If suspensions are carried out on a consistent basis, they do have an effect on the targeted network,” he added.

Wanndy: Avid Facebook user

According to The Star, the pro-IS Facebook accounts were still active as the newspaper went to press for Friday publication.

But one that’s no longer visible is a Facebook page using the name Abu Hamzah al-Fateh. The account belongs to Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, a 25-year-old from Durian Tunggal, Malacca state and suspected IS member.

Last week, according to The Star, police identified Wanndy and another Malaysian national, Mohd Faris Anuar, 20, from Gurun, Kedah state, as members of an IS unit that filmed the decapitation of a Syrian prisoner.

The 30-second video of the killing appeared on al-Fateh’s (Wanndy’s) Facebook account on Feb. 22.

“This is punishment for a spy who betrays Islam … a lesson to us all,” read an excerpt from a message allegedly posted by Wanndy on Facebook along with the video, The Star reported.

On Feb. 3, the holder of the same Facebook account posted a message that offered a glimpse into his thinking.

“Ten years ago, I was the blacklisted kid in my kampung. Parents would not allow their children to be friends with me,” he wrote, referring to his small village back home. “Yes, I was naughty, bad … but with jihad, Allah has blessed me with many friends and has understood my flaws.”

“I have reached this stage because of jihad and the role of one servant of Allah, who first talked to me in Facebook. Facebook is the place where I came to learn all these things,” he added, according to The Star.

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