Authorities charged an Indonesian and two Malaysians on Friday, accusing them of possessing terrorism-related items and being involved in extremist activities by using a popular electronic messaging platform to gather support for the Islamic State group, an official said.
The Indonesian, identified as a 30-year-old construction worker named Irwanzir, was charged at the Sessions Court in Penang state, according to the official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.
“Irwanzir intended to open a military training camp here for IS and has picked the jungles at Batu Gajah and Ipoh in Perak state as the location,” the BenarNews source said, using the acronym for Islamic State.
IS, which once proclaimed a self-styled “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq, was largely defeated in 2019 when its last stronghold in the region fell and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed during a night-time raid by U.S. special forces in northwest Syria.
The Indonesian, a native of Aceh province who goes by the alias Abu Ali or Iskandar, was arrested on Jan. 6. Authorities filed immigration-related charges against him for overstaying his visa and for possessing items linked to IS.
If found guilty, Irwanzir faces up to seven years in prison and fines.
The Indonesian man also tried to influence members of a group on the online messaging platform WhatsApp to join him in a “holy war” in his homeland, said the official, who did not elaborate.
It was not immediately clear if Irwanzir was represented by a lawyer on Friday. Sessions Court judge Norsalha Hamzah set March 5 for the defendant’s next court hearing.
Two Malaysians charged in Perak
Also on Friday in Perak, about 161 km (101 miles) southeast of Penang, authorities filed separate terror-related charges against two Malaysians – a masseur and an a driver of a taxi-hailing app.
Wan Amirul Azlan Jalaludin, 35, and Mohamad Ayub Musa, 36, are members of Iwanzir’s pro-IS group on WhatsApp, the official also told BenarNews.
The two men, who were not represented by lawyers on Friday, face allegations of pledging their allegiance to IS, a criminal offense they allegedly committed in Batu Gajah, a town in Perak.
They were charged separately before Ipoh Sessions Court Judge Azman Abu Hassan, who denied bail for both and set March 20 for the next hearing.
Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation of 33 million people, experienced its first terror attack on June 26, 2016, when a grenade blast injured eight patrons at the Movida nightclub in Puchong town near Kuala Lumpur. Authorities blamed that attack on Islamic State.
Authorities have arrested more than 500 people linked to alleged terror activities since 2013, according to government figures compiled by BenarNews. Dozens of suspects have been freed but no clear number is available.