Malaysia Charges 2 Suspects with Planning Attacks on Worship Places

N. Nantha
Kuala Lumpur
2018-03-26
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180326-MY-suspect-620.jpg Suspected Malaysian militant Nik Muhamad Zaini Nik Hassan is led to the Johor Bahru court complex by a counter-terrorism officer after he was arrested on suspicion of planning to attack a house of worship, March 26, 2018.
Courtesy of Malaysian Police

Malaysian authorities filed charges Monday against two suspected Islamic State (IS) members, alleging they were planning to launch attacks on non-Muslim places of worship and other targets, including police stations.

Another suspected militant was charged in the southern state of Johor with possession of pro-IS videos in his mobile phone and tablet, officials said.

The three were part of a six-member terrorist cell arrested by Malaysian counter-terror officials in three separate raids since the end of February in the state, Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement on Saturday.

Authorities did not name the places of worship in the charge sheet.

“We cannot reveal the names of their targets, but I can confirm they were targeting a few police personnel and officers from Johor,” Fuzi told reporters.

A suspected Filipino bomb maker with alleged ties to Furuji Indama, a leader of the pro-IS militant group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, also was arrested in the eastern state of Sabah this month, Fuzi said. Officials did not release the suspect’s name.

Abu Sayyaf militants are known for beheading hostages unless ransom payments are made. Last year, they beheaded a German captive in February and two Vietnamese sailors in July.

Charge sheet details

Officials alleged that Nik Muhamad Zaini Nik Hassan, 37, who works as a technician, and security guard Ismadi Md Nor (alias Ismail), 30, planned to launch an attack on a building in Johor Bahru, the capital of Johor.

If found guilty, the duo could face imprisonment of not more than seven years.

The third accused, Mohammad Zaki Ibrahim, 49, also a security guard, was charged with possessing video clips of IS activities in his mobile and tablet. He also faces a seven-year prison term, if found guilty.

The three men were not represented by a lawyer and, according to court officials, no pleas were recorded on Monday. They had planned to escape to an unnamed neighboring country upon successfully executing their planned attacks, Fuzi said.

The poorly secured seas separating Malaysia from the southern Philippines are a haven for pirates and terrorists, officials said. The two Southeast Asian nations began joint air patrols with Indonesia in October 2017 to bolster their trilateral maritime efforts aimed at ridding their shared borders of threats from IS extremists.

Fuzi said the terror cell allegedly planned on attacking police stations after Sunday’s national Police Day celebrations.

A source close to the investigation told BenarNews it was not the first time Malaysian authorities knew about plans of militants to attack and kill police personnel.

The Johor cell is considered dangerous as it has links to groups based in southern Thailand, the source also said.

Muslim-majority Malaysia’s top IS recruiter Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, who was killed in a drone attack last year in Syria, had called for IS members in Malaysia to launch attacks in the country against police personnel.

Plan to turn Borneo into haven for extremists

Fuzi told reporters on Saturday that the Filipino bomb maker had been planning to attack targets in Sabah in a bid to transform the Malaysian part of Borneo into a safe haven for the IS terrorists.

“The suspect has links with Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian citizen who joined IS in the southern Philippines,” Fuzi said. “The suspect is also wanted by the Philippine authorities for his alleged involvement in series of attempted murders and kidnap-for-ransom activities.”

Abu Sayyaf members, backed by Southeast Asian and other foreign militant fighters, joined forces last year to take over the southern Philippine city of Marawi, engaging Philippine security forces in five months of vicious gunbattles that killed more than 1,200 people, mostly militants.

The arrests bring to 389 the number of detained terrorism suspects as Malaysian authorities stepped up efforts to disrupt militancy during the past four years, according to a BenarNews tally confirmed by Fuzi on Sunday.

Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, including 19.5 million Muslims, is one of the most-developed economies in Southeast Asia. It has foiled at least nine IS-related bomb plots since 2013, according to officials.

Those foiled plots included one that targeted the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur in August 2017, police said. But in June 2016, IS-linked militants carried out a grenade attack at a nightclub in Puchong, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, injuring eight people.

Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday paid tribute to Malaysian police for keeping the country safe.

“Up until today, I am grateful that none of Malaysian were killed in the country over an IS attack,” Najib said in a speech. “This is because of the effective police action.”

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