KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Police have arrested 14 suspected militants, including three key figures believed to be behind the recruitment of Malaysians into the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The youngest arrested is a 14-year-old boy.
The three key figures are a 37-year-old Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry senior assistant director; a 37-year-old unemployed man who owns a Facebook account used to promote ISIS and recruit militants; and a 34-year-old unemployed man who had returned from Syria where he fought for the extremist group.
The other arrested included a graphic designer, chef, an employee of an events company and a businessman.
Twelve of the suspects were detained at a restaurant in Shah Alam on Monday while another was caught in a house in Damansara the next day. The last one was arrested by the roadside in Damansara on Wednesday.
With these arrests, the total number of suspected militants rounded up by police so far is 37 but the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division is still hunting for more such individuals.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the senior assistant director was the highest profile member of the militant group.
"We believe he was funding the militants' trips to Syria. The man, an engineer by profession, is also suspected of having links to three wanted militants who are hiding with the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines," he said.
Two of the men in hiding are lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad (also known as Abu Handzalah) and sundry shop owner Mohd Najib Husen, both 36. They are believed to be leaders of a local militant group that trains members to fight in Syria and Iraq.
The third man is former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39, also known as Abu Nur.
According to sources, the senior assistant director was in the southern Philippines recently.
"Police started their surveillance on him early this year. He is believed to be the main financer of the militant activities, including paying for the journeys to Syria.
"He tried to mask his activities but the police managed to track him," one source said.
Khalid said the suspect with the Facebook account was promoting, recruiting and uploading ISIS propaganda.
"He is also active in recruiting female university students to be sent to Syria," he said.
As for the man who fought with the ISIS, he was in Syria between December last year and April, according to Khalid.
"He came back to Malaysia on April 8 to share his experiences in Syria and to influence other Malaysians to join the IS," he said.
Khalid revealed that five of the other suspects detained were family members who had planned to go to Syria.
"We seized several books on jihad and militant activities from their homes," he said, adding that the 14-year-old boy is a family member.
They had planned to leave for Turkey and then Syria in two days but police swooped in before they could make the final preparations for their departure.
Also detained were two females, a housewife and a widow, believed to be recruiting young women to join ISIS.
"It starts with Facebook postings and then the militants use these female members to entice other women to join up.
"These female recruiters have motherly natures, which add to their effectiveness," said a source.
The Star reported on its front page on Wednesday that Bukit Aman's biggest fear is that ISIS activities here could encourage "lone wolf" attacks in the country.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has also said the Government would go all out to stop militancy.