Malaysia and Indonesia arrest suspected militants

Malaysia nabs 7 it believes have ISIS links or are planning attacks; Indonesia apprehends 3 bomb plot suspects

KUALA LUMPUR • Both Malaysian and Indonesian police announced yesterday they have recently arrested people with suspected links to terrorist organisations.

Malaysian police said they have arrested seven people, including four foreigners, for suspected links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group and for planning attacks in Malaysia and abroad.

The authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have revoked the passports of scores of citizens identified as having left the country to join ISIS. The police reported this year that 18 Malaysians had been killed fighting for the group in Syria, and another seven were killed carrying out suicide attacks.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in June was the Islamist group's first successful assault in the country.

The police said in a statement their latest arrests were made between Nov 3 and last Friday.

One foreigner was arrested for suspected links to ISIS and attempting to get details about security at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, while another was detained for helping him. Both were enrolled as students at a university near the capital, the police said.

A third arrested foreigner had been detained in the Middle East in 2010 under suspicion of being involved with Al-Qaeda, the police said. Another foreign national suspected of having links to ISIS tried to smuggle firearms into Indonesia, and attempted to sneak into Myanmar to launch an attack, the Malaysian authorities said.

The identity and nationality of the foreigners were not disclosed.

Three Malaysians were detained for planning attacks in the country or for suspected ISIS links, the police said in the statement.

One of them was getting orders from Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi - a Malaysian known by the police to be fighting with ISIS in Syria - and was planning attacks on entertainment places in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca city, the police said.

Malaysia has made several arrests before, including of ISIS supporters suspected of planning attacks in the capital ahead of independence day celebrations.

The authorities in Malaysia have been on high alert since ISIS-linked militants carried out an attack in the capital of neighbouring Indonesia in January.

Meanwhile, Indonesian police said yesterday that three people had been arrested over a suspected plot to carry out a suicide bomb attack in an undisclosed location outside the most populous island of Java.

Two men were arrested in the Central Java city of Solo on Sunday on suspicion they made explosives to be carried by a female accomplice, said Mr Martinus Sitompul, a spokesman for Indonesia's national police.

A suspected female suicide bomber had been arrested in Purworejo, also in Central Java, last Thursday, he said. "The group was planning to carry out an attack outside Java," Mr Sitompul said. He declined to elaborate and said the police would hold a news briefing later this week.

The three were linked to a group the police arrested earlier this month for planning an attack at the changing of the guard at Jakarta's presidential palace, he added.

In both cases, the police suspect the groups planned to use a female suicide bomber, a new tactic for attacks in Indonesia. The suspects held over the planned Jakarta attack had been communicating with and received money from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant known to be fighting with ISIS in Syria, the police have said.

Indonesian police are interrogating 14 suspects related to the planned Jakarta bombing and the plot outside Java, Mr Sitompul said.

Security is usually stepped up in Indonesia at this time of year, following attacks in previous years during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia and Indonesia arrest suspected militants'. Print Edition | Subscribe