Malaysian IS Fighters Turn to People’s Bank Accounts for Funding

Razlan Rashid
Kuala Lumpur
160620-my-ISfunding-620.jpg Workers clean a sign above the CIMB bank in Kuala Lumpur, May 8, 2015.

Malaysians fighting overseas for the Islamic State (IS) militant group are believed to be tapping funds from their compatriots by using local banks instead of the traditional underground financial network, according to officials and experts.

At least three IS sympathizers in Malaysia have been charged in recent weeks with funding Malaysians fighters for the extremist group overseas, including Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, who was seen in a video of an IS execution of a Syrian man.

Intelligence reports have suggested that Wanndy is using sympathizers from Malaysia to fund his jihad activities, Malaysian police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said.

“I believe the money is being used to cover his expenses in Syria,” he told BenarNews.

A handful of Malaysians have given Wanndy their own money because they are convinced that he is using it to fund jihad in Syria, Ayob Khan said.

Just two months ago, Malaysian authorities had told BenarNews they were having difficulty tracing funds flowing to IS fighters because they were sent through a black market network in Southeast Asia, or the elusive international “Hawala” informal money transfer system.

The recent Malaysian cases, however, indicate that IS sympathizers were taking the risk of using the conventional banking system to remit funds to the group’s fighters.

On June 15, two IS sympathizers were charged in separate courts in Malaysia for providing funds to Wanndy, who is a member of the Katibah Nusantara, a Malay language-speaking unit with fighters mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia.

He is responsible for recruiting Malaysians through social media platforms to join the group in Syria, according to reports.

On June 17, an audio technician was charged for funding alleged terrorist Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, 37, who is in Syria. Little information is known about Wan Mohd Aquil, a former musician.

On June 10, a Malaysian car painter was charged with funding Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 41, a member of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf.

Muhammad Joraimee has been on the Malaysian police’s wanted list since April 2014.

According to news reports, Muhammad Joraimee is part of a group planning to form an official faction of the IS in Southeast Asia by bringing together militant groups in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

To date, Malaysian police have arrested at least 193 suspects with alleged links to IS, 64 of whom have been charged in court, according to police statistics.

Terror-financing landscape changing

Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert, said investigations into terror attacks and several foiled terrorism plots revealed that IS operational entities received funds from the group’s central and local support cells.

The funds are used for foreign fighter travels, planning, preparing and attack activities, said Gunaratna, who heads the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“Authorities need to have a deeper understanding of the changing money laundering and terrorism financing threat landscape,” he told BenarNews. “This is imperative.”

“Using indicators, terrorist funds can be detected in the collection, storage, movement and disbursal stages but banks and governments should work collaboratively,” he said.

IS plans to build a global and regional financial infrastructure to complement its existing local revenue, said Gunaratna, who is also a columnist for BenarNews.

“Through its financial networks based in Turkey, IS is transferring money to support groups, networks, cells and personalities in target countries or countries neighboring target countries, and on occasion through global financial hubs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian security expert Zaini Othman said the issue over IS relying on locals for funding was nothing new.

“But we need to read the situation between the lines. Either IS is really running out of financial assistance to support their struggle or their financial assistance is becoming stronger from time to time,”  Zaini, who directs the Security and Strategic Research Center (SASSREC) at the University of Malaysia – Sabah, told BenarNews.

According to Malaysia’s home ministry, more than 130 Malaysians have tried to join IS in Iraq or Syria. At least 19 Malaysians have been killed while fighting for IS in the Middle East, according to Ayob Khan.

Nani Yusof contributed to this report.


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