KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network) - All 15 suspected militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) arrested over last month's bomb attack at a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor are from the northern Malaysian state of Kedah.
The terror group carried out its first successful attack in Malaysia last month, with two men on a motorcycle throwing an explosive device into the Movida Nightclub in Puchong, injuring a dozen people.
But Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan insisted the state was not a factor in the spread of ISIS' extremist ideology.
"Unlike [regional terror network] Jemaah Islamiyah, ISIS spread their teachings through social media.
"They rely less on usra (talks) and more on technology to communicate and indoctrinate their followers," he told The Star on Saturday (July 23).
While JI elements mainly operate from Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Sabah, SAC Ayob said ISIS recruitment was much more widespread.
He said since 2013, 229 suspected militants including 29 foreigners had been detained, while 90 Malaysians were known to have gone to Syria, of whom 21 had died and eight had returned.
"ISIS targets troubled people, who are easily swayed with their own twisted version of Islam," he said.
Among the foreigners detained, 15 were from Indonesia, five from Iraq, and two each from the Philippines and Russia.
On fugitive militant is Dr Mahmud Ahmad, who fled to southern Philippines. SAC Ayob said he was still in Basilan.
"We believe he was responsible for several articles published in the ISIS newsletter Al-Fatihin. He is expanding ISIS propaganda through his writings," he said, referring to the publication banned last week by Singapore.
Since 2013, Perak has had the highest number of arrested suspected militants, at 33.
Kuala Lumpur has had 28, Johor 20, Negri Sembilan and Selangor have 13 each, Kelantan 11 and Sabah 10.
"Unlike JI, ISIS fooled their followers into believing that they were 'reuniting' Muslims under the salafi Jihadi teachings. They selected certain verses from the Quran to recruit followers," he said.
Lately, more Malaysian militants have put up videos threatening Malaysian authorities and the Government.
"The videos are meant for them to show their so-called might and relevance within ISIS.
"However, I feel it is more of a recruitment drive," he said.
The videos included one which showed the terror group's goal of setting up a nusantara ISIS involving Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
"However, they lack the ability to be fully operational in the region given our constant enforcement effort," he said.
The fear remained, however, that the number of Malaysians joining ISIS could be increasing, added SAC Ayob.