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Malaysian PM and Police, Military Chiefs Visit Mall in Capital Amid Terror Warning

Suhana Osman and Hata Wahari
Kuala Lumpur
2016-02-22
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Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) shakes hands with a soldier as he arrives for a joint police-army exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 22, 2016.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) shakes hands with a soldier as he arrives for a joint police-army exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 22, 2016.
AFP

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, accompanied by the country’s police and military chiefs, made a surprise visit to a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, a day after Australia warned its citizens of a possible terrorist attack in the capital.

Najib, also joined by Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, spent about an hour at the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur mall “to get a first-hand look at the joint police and armed forces security patrol in the city,” the national news agency Bernama reported.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said a police-military joint patrol launched in several public areas in Kuala Lumpur a month ago following deadly bombings in Jakarta blamed on the Islamic State (IS) terror group would continue “until such time it was felt that it was no longer necessary.”

“I assure Malaysians and foreign tourists that the situation in the federal capital remains safe and secure against any foreign threats,” said Khalid, who criticized the Australian authorities for not sharing information that was used as a basis for the terror warning.

‘Indiscriminate’

The Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur warned in a travel advisory to Australians on Sunday that terrorists “may be planning attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur.“

“Attacks could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners. You should be particularly vigilant at this time,” it said.

Noting that there is an “ongoing threat of terrorism” in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and other major cities, the advisory said Malaysian authorities have made a number of arrests of people allegedly involved in planning attacks, including against entertainment venues in Kuala Lumpur.

Canberra’s travel warning did not raise the overall threat level for the country from "exercise normal safety precautions" but drew criticism from Malaysian officials

It also advised Australians to reconsider the need to travel to the coastal region of the east Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.

The British government had earlier issued a travel alert regarding coastal towns and islands off Sabah raising the terrorism threat level from "general" to "high.”

Khalid said the Australian government should have shared with the Malaysian authorities the information it had used to issue the travel alert.

“I do not know the basis of the Australian government in issuing such a statement because if they do know something, they should share with us,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

“This is because we will always share whatever information or security situation, particularly on terrorist activities,” he said.

Jakarta link

Last month, Malaysian police arrested seven suspected IS militants allegedly linked to the mastermind of the group’s Jan. 14 deadly attacks in Jakarta which left four civilians and four attackers dead.

The arrests preceded a police announcement that the IS group had posted a video warning of attacks in Malaysia over the arrests of its members and supporters.

The video, in the native Bahasa Malaysia and released by the Malay unit of IS known as Katibah Nusantara (Malay Archipelago Combat Unit), warned the Malaysian government to halt actions against the group and release those who have been detained or “face revenge.”

Katibah Nusantara is suspected to be headed by Bahrun Naim, identified as the mastermind behind the Jakarta bombings and being based in Raqqa, the IS’s de facto capital in Syria.

The video featured two Malaysians based in Syria, identified by Malaysia’s police chief as Abdul Halid Dari and Mohd Nizam Arifin, speaking under the IS logo.

Malaysia's Police Special Branch chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun revealed last month that one of the Jakarta terrorists had made a phone call to a Malaysian number just before the attack, Bernama had reported. The information came from Indonesian police, Fuzi had said.

Counterterrorism experts have expressed concern over the terrorism threat facing Malaysia after reports emerged that scores of Malaysians had gone to join the IS in Syria and Iraq.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has arrested more than 100 people it says are involved in IS. Fifty-five Malaysians have been involved in IS in Iraq and Syria, of whom 17 had been killed, the local media quoted intelligence reports as saying

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there may be more than 130 Malaysian militants in the two countries.

He said at the weekend that Malaysia's police would work closely with Interpol to prevent such individuals from returning to the country to “ensure that Malaysia's racial unity and its stability are not threatened,” Bernama reported.

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