Malaysia: Increased Coastline Security Aims to Stop IS Infiltration

Muzliza Mustafa
2016.08.08
Kuala Lumpur
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160808-MY-IS-620.jpg A Royal Malaysian Navy helicopter flies over a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency patrol boat north of Langkawi island, May 28, 2015.
AFP

Malaysia has 244 ships and 5,000 officers in place to police its coastlines, but top officials say they are looking to deploy more personnel and assets at strategic locations to prevent Islamic State (IS) members from entering Malaysian territory.

Malaysia’s national police force already has beefed up its efforts to monitor the coastal and cross-border movements of Malaysian supporters of IS, who have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join the extremist group and who may be trying to return home and plot terrorist attacks, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar told BenarNews.

“The police and armed forces are conducting joint patrols between midnight and 6 a.m. along Malaysian beaches and borders, including surveillance in public areas to prevent any infiltration,” Khalid said.

The director general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said it has bolstered the presence of ships and officers working along Malaysia’s different coasts, but is seeking the government’s permission to enhance coastal security in other ways.

“We have also requested to the government that we would like to recruit the public, especially those with the experience at sea, including fishermen and students at universities, to be part of a special task force to be our eyes and ears in the sea,” Adm. Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar told BenarNews.

As part of these plans, the MMEA is constructing two radar systems at Pulau Perak and Pulau Tengah, along Strait of Malacca, and will be stationing personnel at Batuan Tengah (Middle Rocks) along the Singapore Strait that lies between the Strait of Malacca in the west and the South China Sea in the east, he said.

The plans for increased security along the coasts and borders have taken on greater urgency in light of last week’s arrests in Indonesia of six suspected IS-linked militants who, according to police in that country, were planning to launch a cross-border rocket attack on Singapore from the nearby Indonesian island of Batam, Malaysian Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Sunday.

Hamidi then announced that the government had revoked the passports of 68 Malaysian citizens who had gone to the Middle East to join IS, including two families from the states of Selangor and Perak. Without passports, those who want to return to Malaysia will be classified as illegal and will be detained under the Immigration Act, he said.

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Malaysian police anti-terror chief, told BenarNews that the revocation was “one of the measures” to stop IS sympathizers from coming back to Malaysia and launching attacks on home soil.

He told BenarNews that 91 Malaysians, including children, are believed to have gone to Syria to fight alongside IS militants.

“From the intelligence reports gathered, 61 are believed to be alive while 21 had been declared dead,” he said adding that the status of the remaining Malaysians status could not be confirmed.

Since 2013 Malaysian authorities have arrested at least 222 suspected IS members and have warned that Malaysians returning from combat stints in Syria or Iraq could launch terrorist attacks at home. At least 72 alleged IS members have been charged in court.

In late June, Islamic State claimed its first terrorist attack in Malaysia when two motorcyclists threw a hand grenade outside a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, injuring eight people.

Patrols began this year

Malaysia started the joint patrols in several public areas in February following a terrorist attack in Jakarta on Jan. 14, which was also claimed by IS, Khaled said.

Since then joint patrols at hot spots have increased to 100 to ensure that Malaysians feel safe, according to Malaysia’s police chief.

Meanwhile, Jakarta-based security analyst Sydney Jones suggested that Malaysia should pay closer attention to an internal terrorist threat instead of deploying forces to prevent militants from infiltrating its borders from the sea.

“Malaysia has more immediate threats like the recruitment of members of its own security forces who have professional training,” Jones told BenarNews.

“No one from IS is going to launch a mad attack like the Sulu Sultan did in Lahad Datu in 2013,” she added, referring to an armed incursion in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah mounted then by a band of southern Filipino followers of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, the now late Jamalul Kiram III.

Hata Wahari in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

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