Interpol nabs terror suspect in S-E Asia op

Deported Malaysian among 17 arrested in recent passport screening operation

A suspected Malaysian terrorist, who was deported to Kuala Lumpur from Turkey, was among those nabbed during a recent Interpol operation in South-east Asia, said the international police agency yesterday.

Codenamed Operation Sunbird III, the operation involved police, and the immigration and maritime authorities from all 10 Asean countries screening passports at 35 land, air and sea border points against Interpol's global databases.

Some eight million searches were conducted during the operation, which took place from March 28 to April 5.

Seventeen arrests were made and 110 "hits" on passports were recorded in the agency's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, said Interpol in a statement.

The statement did not give further details on the suspected Malaysian terrorist.

Among others arrested was a Sri Lankan national who was travelling on a stolen Italian passport. The suspect was intercepted by Indonesian immigration in Bali, said Interpol.

The passport is believed to have been purchased in Kuala Lumpur from a criminal organisation.

Funded by the Canadian government, Operation Sunbird III was conducted under the umbrella of the agency's capacity building and training unit and Integrated Border Management Task Force, in cooperation with Asean countries, Aseanpol and the United Nations.

Interpol's director of capacity building and training Harold O'Connell said the operation aimed to improve cooperation between law enforcement agencies in the field by equipping their officers with the necessary skills and knowledge needed to combat the ever-evolving threats arising from terrorism.

The operation was the first major activity of a multi-year programme to develop the counterterrorism skills of law enforcement units in the region.

High Commissioner of Canada to Singapore Nancy Lynn McDonald said: "This project builds upon previous Canada-Interpol partnerships focusing on intelligence gathering and criminal analysis in South-east Asia."

She added: "With the use of new and emerging technologies by terrorists for the purposes of recruitment, radicalisation and training, such as the use of social media, it is even more incumbent upon the law enforcement community to work collaboratively to address these threats."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Interpol nabs terror suspect in S-E Asia op'. Print Edition | Subscribe