Updated at 7:53 a.m. ET on 2017-11-06
A 19-year-old Malaysian student pleaded guilty Sunday to charges of possessing explosives, after authorities indicted him and two men on allegations that they had planned to detonate a homemade bomb during a beer festival in Kuala Lumpur last month.
Organizers cancelled the Better Beer Festival, scheduled from Oct. 6 to 7 at a shopping center in Kuala Lumpur, following objections from Muslim groups who claimed that the event would encourage immorality and lead to criminal acts. The event was expected to attract 6,000 people, organizers said.
Muhammad Hafizi Mat Jusoh, a high-school level student, pleaded guilty to charges of possessing two improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He made the plea before Judge Ahmad Bazli Bahruddin at the Kota Bharu Session’s Court in Kelantan state.
The student was charged under the country’s Firearms Act 1971 after authorities seized two bombs from a residence in Merkang village, in the district of Pasir Puteh, on Oct. 10. Officials said the student had admitted making the IEDs after learning how to make bombs by watching videos online.
Muhammaf Hafizi could face up to 14 years in prison and six strokes of the cane upon sentencing on Dec. 6.
Malaysian authorities last month said one of the bombs, weighing about 1.3 pounds, contained ball bearings compacted in a PVC pipe and could have injured or killed people within a blast radius of 30 meters (98 feet).
Muhammad Hafizi also faces four other charges, including providing training and being present at a terrorist training site. He did not enter his plea on those charges that each carry a penalty of 30 years imprisonment and fine, upon conviction.
Two other men who were arrested with the student – 34-year-old former soldier Mahadi Brahim and 24-year-old building contractor Ahmad Azmi Ahmad Rosli – were also charged with similar charges in the same court on Sunday. They did not enter any plea on Sunday.
All three men were not represented by attorneys when prosecutor Muhammad Fadzlan Mohd Noor filed the charges Sunday.
Linked to the Gagak Hitam (Black Crows) gang
Malaysian police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun earlier said the two suspects had links to the Gagak Hitam (Black Crows) gang believed responsible for the grenade attack at a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur, last year.
He said the three men were also targeting other locations in the country, including Malaysia’s iconic Twin Towers, non-Muslim houses of worship and entertainment outlets in Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital, and Selangor state. He did not provide details.
The trio’s arrests brought to nine the number of foiled bomb plots since 2013, Fuzi said.
Investigators said the building contractor had links with Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, a leading Southeast Asian recruiter for the Islamic State (IS) who was killed in a drone attack on April 29 in Syria, 10 months after he allegedly orchestrated a grenade attack that injured eight people at a nightclub outside Kuala Lumpur.
Two men were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison each over the blast, the first successful IS-linked attack on Malaysian soil.
Malaysia is home to about 19.5 million Muslims, who make up more than 60 percent of its population. Buddhists, Hindus and Christians make up the rest.
In 2014, Malaysian police said they foiled an IS-linked plot to bomb a Carlsberg brewery in Shah Alam, Selangor, about 30 km (19 miles) southeast of the capital.
An earlier version erroneously reported that eight people were killed in a grenade attack on a nightclub near Kuala Lumpur.