Malaysian Police: Foiled IS Sympathizer’s Plot to Kill PM Mahathir Last Year

Hadi Azmi and Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
2021-03-25
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Malaysian Police: Foiled IS Sympathizer’s Plot to Kill PM Mahathir Last Year Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gestures after a meeting with Pakatan Harapan coalition leaders at the headquarters of the People’s Justice Party in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, June 9, 2020.
[S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

A senior Malaysian police official revealed on Thursday that his agency had foiled an Islamic State sympathizer’s plot to kill then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in January 2020.

Police discovered the plot when they arrested Wan Amirul Azlan bin Jalaluddin, the suspected leader of a group called Anshorullah At-Tauhid, on Jan. 6 last year, Azman Omar, the assistant director of counter-terrorism at Special Branch, said during a roundtable discussion in Kuala Lumpur on Islamic extremism.

“During interrogation, Wan Amirul admitted that he intended to launch attacks against several government leaders by stabbing them with knives or sharp object as a sign of support for Daesh,” Azman said, using another name for the terror group known as Islamic State, or IS.

According to Azman, those targeted officials were Mahathir and three other members of his Pakatan Harapan government: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng; Attorney-General Tommy Thomas; and Mujahid Yusuf Rawa, minister in charge of religious affairs.

IS’s last bastion in Syria fell in March 2019, and its then leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, died during a raid by U.S. Special Forces in October that year.

His death reduced IS’s influence and – coupled with strict controls on the Syrian border – foiled the group’s new recruitment efforts in Malaysia, Azman said at the discussion. The International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia organized the forum, titled “Islam, Radicalism & Extremism in the Age of Pandemic.”

“The death of Wanndy Jedi and other major characters also broke the spirit of Daesh in Malaysia,” he added.

IS member Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi was on a U.S. government list of global militants, and was the alleged mastermind of a grenade attack on a bar near Kuala Lumpur that injured eight people in June 2016. Police announced in May 2017 that he had been killed in Syria.

Azman also said there were currently 56 Malaysians in Syria, including 19 men, 12 women and 25 children.

Senior police sources, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, told BenarNews that Wan Amirul had worked as a masseur and was arrested in Perak state after his group uploaded video threats against the four government leaders on WhatsApp, the sources said.

Along with Wan Amirul, police arrested five other Anshorullah At-Tauhid suspects, including an Indonesian national, the police sources said. All six suspects were arrested under Malaysia’s counterterrorism act, SOSMA, the sources said.

Wan Amirul was tried and sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of engaging in terrorism-related offenses, the sources said, without mentioning dates.

A security source told BenarNews separately that two of the other five suspects were also convicted and sentenced to “between 3 and 4 years in prison” for possessing items related to terrorism, and three were let go because of insufficient evidence.

The security source said Anshorullah At-Tauhid was a very small group, with “no connections whatsoever” to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian militant network affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Responding to the revelation by the deputy police counter-terrorism chief, Pakatan Harapan, the coalition that Mahathir led, criticized Muhyiddin Yassin, the then-home minister and current prime minister, for not informing the cabinet about the assassination plot.

“[W]e urge Muhyiddin to provide an explanation on this matter immediately,” Pakatan, which is now in the opposition, said in a statement posted on Facebook.

JI in Malaysia

JI is a Southeast Asian militant group that authorities in Indonesia say carried out the country’s deadliest terrorist attack to date – twin bombings that killed 202 people in Bali in October 2002 – and helped plan the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that left 12 dead.

At the roundtable discussion, the Special Branch’s Azman denied claims by police in the state of Sabah that JI was active in recruiting and raising funds there.

“As far as we know, we have no strong evidence that JI now exists, even though Abu Bakar Bashir was released in Indonesia. Until now, we have no information that the JI is back, because if there was anything, we would certainly already know,” Azman said.

Bashir was a JI-co-founder and spiritual leader of the militant group. He was released by Indonesian authorities in January after serving nearly 10 years of a 15-year sentence for funding a militant training camp. He was freed after authorities cut 55 months off his term for good behavior.

Last month, a local newspaper in Sabah quoted state Police Commissioner Hazani Ghazali as saying that JI members were active in the state located on Borneo Island, recruiting and raising funds for the group.

Hazani also told the Daily Express that Sabah could see attacks similar to the Bali bombings of 2002 and the attack on the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta a year later, if law enforcement did not monitor and halt JI activities.

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