Syria-based senior members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ordered Malaysian militants to launch attacks against Western targets and entertainment spots in Klang Valley, which police foiled when they arrested two suspects, said the Malaysian police.
The latest arrests on July 2 and 7 revealed a worrying trend where the order to launch attacks came directly from senior ISIS leaders in Syria, the police said yesterday.
It is also the first time ISIS has ordered Malaysian militants to attack Western interests.
The previous trend had been to hit domestic targets, including government buildings and military camps, and kidnap VIPs, as the militants want to replace Malaysia's secular government with an Islamic caliphate.
"The latest arrests involving a local suspect planning to launch attacks after communicating with senior ISIS members in Syria is a worrying, new trend," Inspector- General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.
"This is the same modus operandi... like what happened in Tunisia, France and Kuwait last month," he added.
ISIS gave the order to carry out attacks in the middle of last year to the first suspect, aged 28, who was formerly an event organiser for an automotive company.
The suspect became radicalised after going to Kelantan for a month to take up religious studies, where he met an ISIS member named Ahmad Affendi Manaf, who later died when he carried out a suicide bombing in Homs, Syria, on Nov 9 last year.
"When he returned from Kelantan, the suspect stopped working and started isolating himself and spent his time in his room reading the Holy Quran," a senior police source told The Straits Times.
The man connected with the second suspect, an ISIS member aged 31, via Facebook.
The second suspect was a jobless man who went to Syria early last year and returned to Malaysia in August, after being wounded in a battle.
"The second suspect lived off donations, which he collected by posting his plight as a wounded ISIS fighter on Facebook. Many people donated to him," said the source.
The two suspects have held several meetings in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor since the end of last year to plan the terror attacks.
"The two men met at least four or five times. The second suspect is very elusive. It was very difficult to catch him. He has been well- trained," said the source.
Police seized receipts for tactical gear and books on jihad.
Tan Sri Khalid said the two suspects would be investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.
The latest arrests bring the total number of ISIS suspects caught since last year to 110.