KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said yesterday that he will be visiting Saudi Arabia next year to discuss an announcement by the Arab kingdom of a 34-nation alliance to combat terrorism.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it was forming an Islamic military coalition, based in Riyadh.
It said the participating countries include Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, together with Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, Gulf Arab and several African states. But Iran, a rival political power to Saudi Arabia, is excluded.
Some of the countries mentioned as members were caught offguard by the announcement of a "military" alliance, wondering if this meant sending their troops abroad to fight.
Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said that he had given the Saudis his nod to join an Islamic grouping against the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but needed further discussions with them, New Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
"This visit will not be based on military aspects but more on discussions on how to face the threats posed by Islamic State militants," he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The Defence Minister said he will be inviting defence ministers from other Asean countries to support the alliance.
In Pakistan, its Foreign Secretary, Mr Aizaz Chaudhry, was quoted as saying on Wednesday that he was surprised to read the news that Saudi Arabia had named Pakistan as part of the alliance. He had asked Pakistan's ambassador in Riyadh to get a clarification from Saudi Arabia on the matter, the Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian media has reported the death of a Malaysian bombmaker in the Philippines following a firefight with Filipino government troops.
An intelligence source told The Star newspaper that Mohd Najib Husen, a Malaysian who became an expert bombmaker for the Abu Sayyaf Group, was shot during a clash on Basilan island in southern Philippines on Tuesday.
"Mohd Najib, who is also known as Abu Anas, was not killed instantly but died a few hours later," said the source, adding that some 13 Abu Sayyaf members were also killed.
Mohd Najib, 37, obtained a degree in electrical engineering from Universiti Malaya (UM) and was married with five children, added the source. He was running a stationery shop at the university.
He joined the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group with former UM lecturer Mahmud Ahmad and another Malaysian ISIS member, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee.
"The three of them fled to southern Philippines on April 22 last year. Evidence showed that Mohd Najib officially joined the Abu Sayyaf around the same time," another intelligence source said, according to The Star.
The death of Mohd Najib drew sighs of relief from Malaysian security officials. "Mohd Najib was very dangerous as he communicated with many pro-ISIS youth in Malaysia. He not only taught them more on ISIS, he even gave online tutorials on how to make bombs," an intelligence source said.