Malaysia: IS Unit Leader, 2 Others Killed in Syria Government Airstrike

Anis Natasha
2017.01.16
Kuala Lumpur
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170116-MY-is-deaths-620.jpg Smoke billows following a reported Syrian government air strike in a rebel-held area of Daraa, in southern Syria, Dec. 7, 2016.
AFP

A leader of an Islamic State Malay-speaking fighting unit in Syria and two other Malaysians were killed Saturday in a government airstrike in Raqqah, Syria, Malaysian counter-terrorism unit chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told BenarNews.

Zainuri Kamaruddin, 50, leader of Katibah Nusantara (KN), appeared in a Malay-language IS propaganda video circulated last year where Indonesian and Malaysian passports were burned. The 15-minute, 48-second video showed Southeast Asian children being drilled on extremist ideology, trained to use weapons and incited into burning what appear to be Indonesian and Malaysian passports, in an act of renouncing their citizenship.

At the end of the video, Zainuri leads the passport burning and threatens that the group will send its soldiers back to the Malay Archipelago to eradicate non-believers.

Ayob said Zainuri declared war on the Malaysian government in the video.

Zainuri, who was better known as Abu Talhah, was a former leader of Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM), who trained in Afghanistan and was jailed in Malaysia for 10 years for possession of firearms, according to Ayob. He went to Syria in April 2014 and joined another rebel group, Ajnad al-Sham, before linking up with IS.

“Zainuri was involved in recruiting people to join the IS group in Syria through Facebook and have also made travel arrangements for them,” he said.

A counter-terror analyst said the airstrike will hurt the militant group.

“The death of Zainuri Kamaruddin, also known as Abu Talhah, is a great loss to KN group, because Zainuri is a high-ranking member, well experienced in tactical and ideological methods, and is a highly motivated individual,” analyst Ahmad El-Muhammady told BenarNews. “But, it doesn’t mean its threat to Southeast Asia is diminishing. There are a number of others who are willing to take up the struggle forward.”

Two others killed

Ayob identified the other Malaysians killed as Ahmad Asyraf Arbee Ahmad Jamal Arbee, also known as Abu Luqman Al Malizi, 31, and Sazrizal Mohd Sofian Thayalan, also known as Abu Badar Al Malizi, 27. Both went to Syria in November 2014.

Sazrizal, Ayob said, headed to Syria with his wife without the knowledge of their families and was among those appeared in Zainuri’s video.

“Before heading for Syria, Sazrizal and his wife and some of their friends were working as fruit pickers in Australia to raise funds to go there,” he said.

Among their friends was Mohamad Amirul Ahmad Rahim, a 26-year-old Malaysian who died when he drove a truck full of explosives, killing 21 others in a suicide attack in Raqqah last year.

Ayob said the death of the three men have brought the number of Malaysians killed to 30 of 95 who have being identified as being linked to IS in Syria.

Nine killed themselves in suicide bombings, Ayob told BenarNews in a year-end interview.

KN, the Malay Archipelago unit of IS, groups fighters from the Malay-speaking region of Malaysia and Indonesia including Southern Philippines.

The unit could become a fighting force in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a Jakarta-based think-tank.

“From my standpoint, and information i am privy to, KN was and is working hard to recruit Malaysians to act on their behalf,” analyst Ahmad said. “In my opinion, we can destroy KN once and for all, if all KN members in Syria are eliminated. It is not impossible. But, it is a difficult operation.”

Malaysian authorities have arrested 264 IS suspects since 2013, 66 have since been freed, according to figures Ayob presented recently.

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