A Syria-based Malaysian bomb-maker has been sharing his knowledge in explosives with Islamic State recruits for more than two years and has instructed militants to carry out attacks in his home country, Malaysia’s top anti-terror cop alleged in an interview.
IS member Muhamad Nasrullah Abd Latif (also known as Abu Gomes) has been recruiting his countrymen to join the extremist group in the Middle East and has been teaching recruits to build bombs since he left Malaysia, police counter-terrorist special branch chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told The Star newspaper in a report published Thursday.
Ayob’s comments followed the announcement by police on Tuesday of the arrests in Malaysia of seven men with alleged links to IS and other militant organizations, who were taken into custody in raids in different states between Nov. 3 and Dec. 16.
Among the seven was a 24-year-old self-employed man, arrested in Malacca on Nov. 26 and believed to be an IS member who was taught to build home-made bombs by Abu Gomes, who is from the northern Malaysian state of Perak and has been in Syria for more than two years.
“We can confirm that he [Abu Gomes] often shares his knowledge in bomb making and has issued orders to IS cells in Malaysia to launch attacks,” Ayob said, according to The Star.
The unidentified suspect had also received instructions from Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, a Malaysian who left for Syria with his wife in January 2015 and has been recruiting for IS as well, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said in announcing the arrests.
Malaysian police investigators are identifying Abu Gomes’ recruits, Ayob said, adding that he is not as influential as Wanndy.
In June, two men allegedly associated with Wanndy and IS launched a grenade attack that injured eight people at a nightclub in Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur – the first terrorist act claimed by Islamic State on Malaysian soil. Both suspects were arrested and are awaiting trial in January.
Khalid said a different foreign suspect who worked at a factory in the southern state of Johor was arrested earlier in December after allegedly trying to smuggle weapons to Poso, Indonesia, and enter Myanmar illicitly.
Ayob told The Star that the suspect, who also took orders from Wanndy, planned to use Malaysia as a transit point for smuggling weapons to militants in Poso.
“He entered the country legally a year ago but overstayed,” Ayob said. “He used his job as a factory worker in Johor Baru as a cover to carry out his work as an IS operative.”
‘The safety of the people is our top priority’
As of November, Malaysian police had arrested more than 260 people allegedly involved in militant activities, including more than 70 who have been charged in court. Recent statistics show that 56 Malaysians were in Syria, including 12 women and 17 boys and girls. Twenty-seven Malaysians have been killed in Syria and Iraq and eight have returned home.
Among others whose arrests were announced this week were two students at Al-Madinah International University in Shah Alam, Selangor, according to Khalid.
“The first suspect has been previously investigated by foreign authorities for alleged involvement in the Daesh terror group,” Khalid said, using another name for IS. “During September 2016, he was believed to be involved in obtaining security information [about] an international school in Kuala Lumpur.”
Khalid said the second foreign suspect conspired with his university colleague. Both men, who were arrested Nov. 3, have since been deported to their home countries.
On Thursday, officials at Al-Madinah University issued a statement about the arrests of the students. The two suspects are not representative of the campus, which is “not a hub of terrorist activity deployment,” the university said.
In the interview Ayob also told Malaysians not to panic over potential terror attacks during the Christmas and New Year holidays, The Star reported.
“People should carry out their routines and celebrate during this holiday season,” he said. “We are always on our guard and the safety of the people is our top priority.”