Malaysian counter-terrorism officers arrested nine suspected Islamic State (IS) supporters in raids in five states earlier this month, including a restaurant worker allegedly involved in a bomb plot against a police station, the nation’s top policeman announced Friday.
Police did not reveal the names of those taken into custody during operations from March 15 to 21, but Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said officers foiled a plot to attack a station house in Perak state when they arrested the restaurant employee.
Bakar said the 31-year-old man who was arrested on March 17 had close ties to an IS cell in Poso, a regency in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province where Indonesian security forces have been hunting down the last few holdouts of IS-linked militant group Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen.
“The suspect who works as a restaurant helper planned an attack on Tapah police station in Perak,” Khalid said in a statement, adding that the suspect had contacted Indonesian IS members to obtain explosives to be used in the foiled attack.
“The suspect also had close ties with IS cell in Poso, Indonesia, and was active in recruiting Malaysians to join IS,” Khalid said.
News of the latest arrests of suspected militants came nearly 10 days after Malaysian authorities said they arrested seven IS supporters. Six of them were caught in the eastern state of Sabah close to the southern Philippines where IS-linked Muslim militant groups operate.
And, earlier this month, Malaysian police announced they had foiled a plot by four Yemeni men – who are in custody – to attack Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz al-Saud and his entourage during a royal visit to Malaysia.
The four suspects were Houthi rebels, Khalid told BenarNews at the time. Houthis are Iranian-backed insurgents fighting Saudi-aligned forces in Yemen.
A range of occupations
All nine suspects in the newest batch are being held under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012, Khalid’s statement said Friday. The act allows police to hold suspects for 28 days without charges.
Apart from the restaurant worker, the other eight include a technician with an inspection company, a primary school teacher, a veterinary shop owner, a mechanic, a resort worker, a cybercafé worker and two security guards, police said. The suspects were picked up during operations in Perak, Selangor, Kedah, Kelantan and Johor states.
Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have arrested 294 people with suspected IS links, of whom 66 have since been freed, according to the latest figures obtained by BenarNews.
The technician, age 27, was arrested in Selangor and was an alleged member of the Gagak Hitam (Black Crow) terror cell, which was crippled by police through the arrests of 14 of its members in September and October last year.
The cell, Khalid added, was responsible for a blast at the Movida nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, last year, which injured eight people in the first IS-claimed attack on Malaysian soil.
“He admitted to be the funder of Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi,” Khalid said, referring to a Malaysian who allegedly has been fighting for IS in Syria since 2015.
Police have accused Wanndy of orchestrating the nightclub attack in Puchong.
Another of the nine suspects, a 37-year-old primary school teacher, was said to be spreading IS’s Salafist ideology on his Facebook page to recruit new members. The teacher was arrested in Kulim, Kedah, on March 16.
Another suspect arrested on the same day was a 39-year-old security guard who had planned to join Islamic state in Syria or the southern Philippines, police said.
Four days later, the mechanic was nabbed in Kuala Krai district in Kelantan.
“The 32-year-old mechanic is suspected of channelling funds to IS in Syria and is in contact with a Malaysian IS member there,” Khalid said.