Former PAS leader among Malaysian jihadists in Syria: Reports

Ustaz Lofti Ariffin (left), a former leader of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), has been identified as one of the Malaysians who travelled to Syria to join a jihadist movement. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Ustaz Lofti Ariffin (left), a former leader of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), has been identified as one of the Malaysians who travelled to Syria to join a jihadist movement. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA - One of the Malaysians who have travelled to Syria to join a jihadist movement has been identified as Lotfi Ariffin, a former leader of opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

An investigation by The Star newspaper found that Lotfi has uploaded photographs and video clips of himself on social media while his supporters have also blogged about his exploits.

Lotfi is a former member of the PAS Dewan Ulama, or Clerics Council consisting of senior party clerics.

PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali said on Thursday that Lotfi was sacked from the party last month after it learnt that he had joined a jihadist group in Syria, The Malaysian Insider news portal reported. Datuk Mustafa said the media was told about the sacking only on Thursday.

Reuters reported that Lotfi has nearly 19,000 Facebook followers. One of them is 21-year-old Malaysian Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, who was inspired to join the fightings in Syria. A video posted on his Facebook page on May 15 showed him beside Lotfi and another Malaysian fighter.

"At the beginning, I got in touch with Ustaz (teacher) Lotfi," Fadhlan said. "The Ustaz told me how much I would need for the trip."

The Star said another Malaysian militant, who has been featured prominently on pro-militant websites and blogs, is former Malay pop group drummer, Ali Ukay, which had a string of hit songs.

He is said to have also been influenced by Lotfi and had joined the latter in entering Syria, where both are seen heavily armed and in fatigues, said The Star report.

The news follows recent media reports that a number of foreigners have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join militants fighting there.

In a separate report, The Star said Malaysia wants Syria to verify its claim that its armed forces had killed 15 suspected Malaysian militants. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said both sides were in contact and exchanging information.

"We found out that Malaysians who went there for such activities usually travelled through three or four countries," he said, adding that police were also aware of militants in Malaysia trying to recruit new members.

The target were usually youths in their 20s, said Mr Khalid.

"Investigation is still ongoing and there will be arrests made every now and then. Just wait. Most importantly, we want to trace their activities from here.

"We know they are using social media to coax and plead (to get members)," he told reporters on Wednesday.