Updated at 9 a.m. ET on 2018-06-01
Malaysian police said Friday they arrested and detained 15 suspected militants since March, including foreigners and a housewife accused of plotting to use a vehicle rigged with improvised explosive devices to run over non-Muslim voters at a polling station during the general election last month in Kuala Lumpur.
Six Filipinos, a Bangladeshi restaurant owner, a couple from north Africa and six Malaysians were arrested after police uncovered separate terror plots on churches and Hindu temples around the nation’s capital, police Inspector-General Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.
“The woman was planning to launch attacks using a car, targeting non-Muslim voters during the general election,” Fuzi said.
The 51-year-old housewife was arrested in Puchong town on May 9, the day Malaysia held a general election, Fuzi said. Police suspected her of planning to use a car loaded with cooking gas cylinders as improvised explosives to attack a voting center, he said, without elaborating.
Puchong, about eight miles from Kuala Lumpur, was the site of a grenade blast that injured eight patrons at the Movida nightclub on June 26, 2016. It was the only successful Islamic State (IS)-linked attack in Malaysia.
Student linked to IS
Among the arrested Malaysians is a 17-year-old high school student who was taken into custody April 20 and is believed to be an IS member. He allegedly made six molotov cocktails or crudely made gasoline bombs that he planned to use as part of his “lone wolf” attacks on churches, entertainment centers and Hindu temples in the capital, Fuzi said.
Fuzi said the teenage suspect had tested one of his explosives in an open field in Damansara Damai, about 12 miles northwest of the capital. The suspect was arrested about an hour after he uploaded videos on social media and warned that he would launch an attack.
“The boy planned to launch attacks on churches, entertainment outlets and places of worship belonging to non-Muslims in the city,” Fuzi said.
The arrests, which occurred between March 27 and May 9, took place days before neighboring Indonesia grappled with terrorist violence last month that, authorities said, killed 13 civilians, seven police and 31 terror suspects, including three families who killed themselves in suicide bombings.
One of the Malaysian suspects was a 33-year-old man who was arrested on March 27 at an airport in Selangor state after he was deported from Turkey for allegedly planning to join the IS militants in Syria, Fuzi said.
The 41-year-old Bangladeshi, who owned a restaurant in the shopping district of Bukit Bintang, was suspected of smuggling weapons to terror suspects, Fuzi said, without elaborating. The African husband and wife, age 25 and 22, respectively, have been deported on suspicion of having IS links, he said.
The six Filipinos were detained in April in Sabah on suspicion that they belonged to a militant cell that was collecting firearms to support extremist groups in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, Fuzi said.
More than 1,200 people died, most of them militants, after five months of vicious gun battles in Marawi last year.
During the past five years, Malaysian authorities have arrested at least 350 people suspected of having links to terror groups. At least 66 of those suspects have been freed, according to government figures compiled by BenarNews.