Malaysian counterterrorism officers have arrested and detained seven suspects, including three Indonesians and a Malaysian supporter of the extremist group Islamic State who allegedly threatened to kill the king and the prime minister, police said Thursday.
Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the police inspector-general, said the arrests occurred in the states of Terengganu, Selangor, Perak and Johor over a five-day period, starting on July 12.
One of the suspects, a 42-year-old Indonesian, was linked to a member of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a militant group involved in the killing of a police officer during a prison riot on May 10 at a detention center in Indonesia’s West Java province, Fuzi said in a statement.
“He admitted that he is connected to a JAD member,” the Malaysian police chief said.
He said another suspect, a 34-year-old unemployed man, was arrested in Johor after he had allegedly posted a threat on Facebook to kill the king, Sultan Muhammad V, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Mujahid Yusof Rawa, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Including the latest arrests, Muslim-majority Malaysia has arrested 40 terrorism suspects this year, according to a tally of official police figures compiled by BenarNews.
In Jakarta, Indonesian national police confirmed the arrests of three of citizens by the Malaysian authorities.
“It’s correct. The Indonesian police attaché in Malaysia is currently investigating the information further,” Indonesian Police Inspector-General Setyo Wasisto told BenarNews.
Malaysia’s counter-terror officers have arrested hundreds of people suspected of having links to terror groups during the past five years, but the multiracial nation of 32 million residents has suffered only one terror attack. Among the 350 arrested suspects, at least 66 have been freed, officials said.
On June 26, 2016, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for a grenade blast that injured eight patrons at a nightclub in Puchong, about 12.8 km (8 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.
In the latest police operations, on July 12 Malaysian officers arrested a 26-year-old Indonesian businessman on charges of being a member of the terror group Negara Islam Indonesia (NII), or Islamic State of Indonesia, in Terengganu state, Fuzi said.
“The suspect has made a bai’ah or pledge of allegiance to the top leaders of the group in Bandung, Indonesia between 2015 and 2017,” Fuzi said. Bandung is the capital of West Java province.
“The man has also undergone a series of military training organized by the group around Bandung between 2015 and 2018,” he said.
He said the suspect’s wife, a Malaysian, had also pledged loyalty to the militant group’s top leaders in Bandung and was planning to take her and their children to Syria to join IS. But Fuzi said the wife was not arrested.
In addition, a 27-year-old Indonesian construction worker was arrested on July 12 in Petaling Jaya, Selangor after authorities said they found 100 videos and 90 images of IS activities on his mobile phone.
“The suspect has also promoted IS activities on his Facebook account and uploaded videos and images of the terror group,” Fuzi said. “He also planned to join the group in Syria.”
Police arrested four residents, with ages ranging from 21 to 42, in the southern state of Johor on July 16 and 17. Among the suspects was a 24-year-old woman.
The woman has links to a Malaysian terrorist killed in Syria in March, who was identified as Muhammad Nasrullah Latif (alias Abu Gomez), Fuzi said, alleging that the woman had remitted money to the man prior to his death.
The 42-year-old Indonesian man in custody had posted messages on Facebook threatening to launch a bomb attack in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines after the Eid celebrations this year, Fuzi said.
“He frequently communicated with Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a Malaysian member of the Islamic State in Syria and main plotter of the Movida bombing in Puchong (in Selangor) on June 28, 2016 to get updates on the group’s activities in Syria,” Fuzi said.
Malaysia officially confirmed Wanndy’s death in May last year after being notified by foreign intelligence sources. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters then that the top IS recruited was killed in a drone attack in Syria on April 29, 2017.
Fuzi said the suspects were detained under the Malaysian Penal Code for terror-related offences and are being investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
Tria Dianti in Jakarta contributed to this report.