Malaysia has arrested four foreigners and three citizens since early November for suspected links to terrorist groups including Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, the nation’s police chief announced Tuesday.
Among the foreign suspects, one allegedly was involved in gathering information about an international school in Kuala Lumpur and another tried to smuggle weapons to Poso, in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, and also attempted to infiltrate Myanmar to launch attacks there, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.
A third man, who is Malaysian, allegedly posted at least one message on social media in which he threatened to bomb entertainment spots in Kuala Lumpur.
The most recent arrest was made by the police’s counter-terrorist special branch on Dec. 16, following raids in the states of Selangor, Malacca, Johor and the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island, he said.
Police did not identify the suspects, but Khalid said all were investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, which allows detention without trial for up to 28 days.
Three foreign men between the ages of 20 and 30 were arrested on Nov. 3 and have since been deported to their home countries, he said. Another foreigner, age 26, was arrested on Dec 8. The police chief did not disclose the nationalities of the four suspects.
The first two were students at Al-Madinah International University in Shah Alam, Selangor, according to Khalid.
“The first suspect has been previously investigated by foreign authorities for alleged involvement in the Daesh terror group,” Khalid said, using another name for IS. “During September 2016, he was believed to be involved in obtaining security information of an international school in Kuala Lumpur.”
Khalid said the second foreign suspect conspired with his university colleague. The third suspect, also taken into custody on Nov. 3, had been arrested by authorities in the Middle East on charges linked to his alleged involvement with al-Qaeda.
Khalid said the fourth foreigner, who was arrested in December, worked at a factory in the southern state of Johor and allegedly tried to smuggle weapons to Poso and enter Myanmar illicitly.
Authorities: 260 involved in militant activities
As of November, Malaysian police reported that they had arrested more than 260 people allegedly involved in militant activities, including more than 70 who have been charged in court. Among those detained were members of the Malaysian army and police, imams from mosques, university professors and government officials.
Recent statistics provided by the police show that 56 Malaysians were in Syria, including 12 women and 17 boys and girls. Twenty-seven Malaysians have been killed in Syria and Iraq and eight have returned home.
Many of those arrested by Malaysian authorities have been linked to Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, a Malaysian who left for Syria with his wife in January 2015 and has been an active as recruiter for IS since then.
Describing the Malaysian suspects, Khalid said two are 24 years old and the third is 36.
One of the 24-year-olds, identified as self-employed, was arrested in Malacca on Nov. 26 and is believed to be an IS member who allegedly received instructions from Wanndy to carry out attacks on entertainment outlets in Malacca and Kuala Lumpur.
“The suspect has also been taught to make improvised explosive devices (IED) from another Malaysian militant in Syria, Muhamad Nasrullah Abd Latif or Abu Gomes,” Khalid said.
The other 24-year-old, a lorry driver, was arrested on Dec. 16 after allegedly threatening on his Facebook page to launch bomb attacks on entertainment outlets in Kuala Lumpur.
The 36-year-old, who worked in a furniture factory in Sabah, was captured in the state’s capital of Kota Kinabalu on Nov. 16 as he allegedly tried to join an IS cell in Sabah, according to Khalid.
In June, two men allegedly associated with Wanndy and IS launched a grenade attack that injured eight people at a nightclub in Puchong, near Kuala Lumpur, which was the first terrorist act claimed by Islamic State on Malaysian soil. Both suspects were arrested and are awaiting trial in January.