15 Malaysian Military Members Arrested On Terror Ties Since 2013

Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
2016-10-03
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161003-my-military-620.jpg Malaysian army personnel demonstrate combat skills in a war situation during the opening day of 15th Defense Services Asia Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, April 18, 2016.
AFP

Fifteen Malaysian military personnel have been arrested for alleged involvement in terrorist activities since 2013, according to the nation’s anti-terror chief, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

Of the 15, three were released after investigations, five were charged for terrorism-related activities, and seven others are being held under anti-crime laws that cover acts of terrorism, Ayob told BenarNews.

“We are working with the military on this matter. IS influences everybody; military and police personnel are not exempted,” he said, referring to the so-called Islamic State group.

On Sept. 26, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted as saying that about 1 percent of suspected IS supporters arrested to date were members of the nation’s armed forces.

He did not give the number of military suspects, or an overall number of people arrested for suspected ties to IS. But he said his department was taking the development seriously.

“We are going all out. The Military Religious Corps (Kagat) and Military Intelligence have been tasked to monitor and gather intelligence on our men and women for any signs that they may be influenced by militant propaganda,” Malaysian daily The Star quoted him as saying.

“Whoever has access to computer is exposed to the threat of Daesh,” he said, using another name for IS.

“Whether they are a soldier, whether it is our son, our children, could be a bus driver, they are considered to be someone that is potentially capable of conducting threats of that nature,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of an international military seminar in Kuala Lumpur.

Born-again Muslims

Low education levels and poor religious knowledge make some army personnel an easy target for IS radicalization, former Royal Malaysia Police special branch deputy director Hamid Bador told BenarNews.

“At the same time some of these soldiers, those who have gone astray, became born-again-Muslims. They cut corners to redeem past sins. Thus the shortest way to heaven is to be a mujahideen and die as a martyr,” he told BenarNews.

He said there is a need for a special de-radicalization program for the armed forces. “Mobilise the lower ranks in peacetime military activities. Do not leave them idle for too long,” he said.

Ahmad El-Muhammady, an analyst assisting Malaysian authorities in de-radicalization programs, said the backgrounds of terror suspects detained by Malaysian police are diverse, indicating that IS propaganda has reached many parts of society.

“[T]o me this is not about number and percentage, it is about the existence of radical ideology that penetrated into military and security forces, regardless of how many of them [are] involved,” he told BenarNews.

A majority of the detainees are sympathetic to the sufferings of Muslims in war-torn countries such as Syria and “trying to help with all sincerity,” he said.

“In the case of military men, they feel that they can contribute to the struggle of Syrian people because they have combat skills, and weapon handling, and physical fitness. Knowing and unknowingly, they have breached the law of the land,” he said.

Ayob said 58 Malaysians are with IS in Syria or Iraq: 32 men, 10 women and 16 are children.

Of the 90 who joined the extremist group in the Middle East since 2013, 24 are believed to have been killed in battle, and eight were arrested after returning home, Ayob said.

Since 2013, authorities have arrested at least 230 suspected IS supporters on home soil and have warned that Malaysians returning from combat stints in Syria or Iraq could launch terrorist attacks at home.

In late June, IS claimed its first terrorist attack in Malaysia when two motorcyclists threw a hand grenade that exploded outside a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, injuring eight people.

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