Malaysian IS Fighter Wanndy Killed in Syria: Police Chief

Hata Wahari and N. Natha
2017.05.08
Kuala Lumpur
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170508-MY-wanndy-620.jpg Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, joined by his wife, Nor Mahmudah Ahmad and an unidentified child in this undated photo, was killed last month in Syria, Malaysia’s police chief confirmed.
Courtesy of Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET on 2017-05-08

A leading Southeast Asian recruiter for Islamic State whom authorities had blamed for orchestrating the first terrorist attack claimed by IS on Malaysian soil was killed in Syria last month, Malaysia’s police chief confirmed Monday.

Reports of the killing of Malaysian national and IS militant Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi surfaced on April 29 after his wife announced his death on her Facebook page, but Malaysian officials declined to confirm it then.

“After we gathered all intelligence, the Royal Malaysian Police has confirmed that Muhammad Wanndy was killed in an attack in Raqqa, Syria, on April 29,” Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts Monday.

Officials declined to say how Wanndy was killed. His death brings to at least 31 the number of Malaysians linked to IS who have been in killed in Syria or Iraq since 2014, according to figures obtained from the Malaysian government.

“We cannot provide details on Wanndy’s death as it involves intelligence from other parties,” a top-level Malaysian security official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

Wanndy was known as an IS recruiter who was active on social media. Two years ago, Malaysian authorities identified him as having taken part with another Malaysian man in filming an IS execution-video that was posted online.

In late March the U.S. Treasury Department declared Wanndy a Specially Designated  Global Terrorist, alleging that the IS fighter based in Syria and Iraq coordinated planning for terrorist plots as well as facilitated travel to the Middle East from Southeast Asia for young IS recruits.

When BenarNews reported about his new designation by the United States, Wanndy posted a link to the article on his own Facebook page.

‘A highly motivated operative with a vast network’

When Wanndy’s wife, Nor Mahmudah Ahmad, posted the news about his death, her announcement was removed from Facebook a short time later.

But on the same day, a pro-IS poster identified as Akhi Hamzah shared what he called Wanndy’s final Facebook posting where he stated, “Tomorrow I will travel far … excited to go to a place I have never been to.”

Another IS supporter, identified as Shah al Ghuraba, posted two pictures that claimed to show the car Wanndy that was traveling in. The first photo, dated April 28, showed bullet holes in the side of the car. The second photo showed the same car after it had been destroyed in a drone strike the following day, according to information posted with the picture.

BenarNews could not confirm the veracity of the photos.

Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based expert on Southeast Asian extremist groups and a BenarNews columnist, said Wanndy was the main person directing terror attacks in Malaysia and he had established contacts with Malaysian terrorists operating in the Philippines and other countries.

“The death of Wanndy demonstrates that terrorists can run, but they cannot hide,” Gunaratna told BenarNews.

“Although he is likely to be replaced, Wanndy’s death diminishes the threat to Malaysia as he was a highly motivated operative with a vast network.”

Movida attacked

Malaysian police had blamed Wanndy for coordinating a plot from the Middle East that resulted in eight people being injured in a grenade attack claimed by IS at a Kuala Lumpur area nightclub in June 2016.

Afterward, Wanndy went online to declare responsibility for the attack at the Movida nightclub in Puchong. Two men were sentenced in March to 25 years in prison for tossing a grenade at a crowd of patrons who were watching a football match on the patio.

Wanndy was believed to be the only remaining Malaysian IS fighter who was consistently active on social media, primarily Facebook, but also on WhatsApp and Telegram. His death is expected to disrupt networks he had cultivated through social media.

Azmi Hassan, a geo-political expert at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said Wanndy served as a link between Malaysian militants and IS and was responsible for planning attacks in his home country.

“[I]n reality, only one was successful, the Movida Club. The Daesh strategy is to recruit local followers and the method has not been successful,” Azmi told BenarNews, using another name for IS.

“With the death of Wanndy, the influence of Daesh in Malaysia is undoubtedly paralyzed even as Daesh in Syria and Iraq are losing much of their controlled areas.”

As unconfirmed reports of Wanndy’s death began to surface last week, Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a Jakarta think-tank, said her group was receiving information that he had been growing more and more concerned about sending his wife and children home to Malaysia.

Jones said Wanndy’s death would be a blow to the pro-IS movement in Malaysia, but she also offered a warning.

“It might also spark efforts at retaliatory action,” she told BenarNews, adding that the capacity for such attacks was not great.

Early days in IS

Wanndy, who traveled to Syria with his wife in January 2015, was identified as one of two Malaysians who took part in the videotaped decapitation of a Syrian prisoner the next month. The other man, Mohd Faris Anuar, was killed in Iraq in December 2015.

Wanndy apparently posted a 30-second video of the killing on his Facebook page on Feb. 22, 2015.  “This is punishment for a spy who betrays Islam … a lesson to us all,” read an excerpt from the message posted with the video.

During a Facebook interview with BenarNews in September 2015, he expressed no regrets about leaving home to join Islamic State.

He criticized other Malaysians who were afraid to die for IS.

“These Malaysians come up with thousands of excuses to avoid dying as a martyr. When they return to Malaysia, they are screaming their lungs out for jihad, but, ironically, they fled from the battle,” Wanndy told BenarNews at the time.

“I must say that I do harbor the hope of returning to Malaysia, but it is not my priority as my focus now is to stay here and fight, to achieve my dream of defending the IS.”

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