Malaysia tightens security after arresting Israeli with guns in Kuala Lumpur

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli and Nisha David
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia tightens security after arresting Israeli with guns in Kuala Lumpur Malaysian Police Inspector-General Razarudin Husain speaks to reporters at Federal Police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 9, 2024.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

UPDATED at 7:53 a.m. ET on 2024-03-30

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur arrested an Israeli suspect with a cache of handguns and ammunition at a local hotel earlier this week and were probing whether he could be an operative for Israel’s spy agency, Malaysia’s police chief said Friday. 

In connection with the case, the authorities on Friday arrested three Malaysians, including a couple suspected of selling the firearms to the 36-year-old man, who they said was an Israeli national carrying two passports. 

The foreigner’s arrest, which took place on Wednesday, occurred amid Malaysia’s staunch support for Palestinians in the ongoing battle with Israel in Gaza.

In light of the arrest, police tightened security for the prime minister, the king and others following the arrest on Wednesday, Police Inspector-General Razarudin Husain said.

“He entered Malaysia on March 12 using a French passport, was arrested on March 27 and will be remanded until March 31 for further investigation,” Razarudin told reporters without naming the suspect. “During the probe, he handed us his Israeli passport.” 

Razarudin said the suspect apparently did not bring the handguns into the country.

“He told us the firearms were meant to kill another Israeli national and were bought in Malaysia using crypto currency,” Razarudin said, adding that police were investigating the man’s statement.

“We cannot take all his words as truth. He could have another agenda,” Razarudin said, adding police were trying to determine if the man was a member of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.

On Saturday, Razarudin told BenarNews that a Malaysian couple was arrested on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on suspicion of supplying the foreigner with the weapons. Police also confiscated a firearm from them, he said.

“They were detained at the Ramadan Bazaar. The initial investigation showed that the couple had smuggled in the firearms from a neighboring country and the payment was made in crypto currency,” the national police chief said.

Earlier on Friday, Razarudin said, police arrested a local man in Cameron Highlands, in Pahang state who was believed to have worked as a driver for the foreign suspect. 

Meanwhile on Saturday, the Times of Israel newspaper reported that several Hebrew news outlets had identified the man as an associate of the Musli brothers, an Israeli mobster family. The Times cited the Mako news site as reporting that the suspect was “en route to assassinate Eran Haya, head of a rival crime family.” 

Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel. 

Israeli nationals are barred from visiting Malaysia unless they obtain special permission from the Home Affairs ministry. In December, the Southeast Asian country imposed a docking ban on Israeli-owned ships from entering Malaysia following the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has spoken out against Israel since it began retaliating for an Oct. 7, 2023, attack on the Jewish state by Hamas militants that left at least 1,100 Israelis dead. Since then, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and military operations in the Gaza Strip.

During his recent visit to Germany, Anwar criticized the “hypocrisy” of Western countries in dealing with the conflict in the Middle East. The criticism follows comments the Malaysian leader made just weeks after the original attack.

In late October 2023, Anwar refused to label Hamas as a terrorist group despite U.S. demands that Malaysia change its stance.

“Because of our reluctance to label Hamas a terrorist organization and consider Hamas as terrorists, I have received information that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a ‘démarche,’ or diplomatic protest, from the U.S. Embassy twice, first on Oct. 13 and second on Oct. 30,” Anwar told Parliament a day after the second diplomatic protest.

“Malaysia will not change its stance, particularly our reluctance to consider Hamas as a terrorist group. … Malaysia maintains its independent position.”

29 MY-ISR-arrest2.jpg
Participants in the 10K Solidarity with Palestine Gathering march from the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center Mosque to the U.S. Embassy, Oct.28, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Anwar said the stance was based on humanitarian grounds because Malaysia views Israel’s occupation of Gaza “as illegal under international law and norms.”

“This conflict did not start just a month ago; it has been ongoing for decades, since 1998,” he said at the time.

Loaded weapons

On Friday, Razarudin said police did not think the suspect was working alone. The nation’s police chief noted that three of the handguns were loaded and ready to fire.

“He probably has his network and contact here who we have yet to identify,” Razarudin said at the time, adding he likely did not bring the handguns with him because he traveled from the United Arab Emirates where security is tight.

Malaysian police are investigating the man under the Passport Act of 1966 and Section 7 of Firearms Act for unauthorized possession of weapons. If charged and found guilty, he could be sentenced to death.

Mossad link

Muhammad Danial Azman, senior lecturer from the International Institute of Public Policy and Management, University of Malaya, said the potential spy allegation could not be discounted.  

“Simply assuming that the police are jumping to a conclusion is somewhat inaccurate. The security enforcement authority is acting not without ‘reason,’ but mostly likely functioning after successive intelligence information,” he told BenarNews.

“The current press release is instead updating the public based on what they have gathered so far, and this will eventually be followed by more eventual legal and security measures within the parameters of the constitution and security policy.”

He added that a link between the suspect’s activity and Malaysia’s support for the Palestinian cause is plausible.

“After all, we have to consider past incidents of alleged involvement of Israeli intelligence agents in the extrajudicial killing of Fadi Mohammad,” he told BenarNews. 

Six years ago, a Palestinian engineer residing in Malaysia, Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh, was shot dead by “Europeans with links to foreign intelligence agency” riding a motorcycle near a local mosque in Kuala Lumpur. His family has blamed Mossad for his killing.”

This report has been updated to include information about the arrests of Malaysians connected to the case and details from Israeli news reports. 


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