Malaysia arrests 15 terror suspects

Malaysian police stand guard before the arrival of prime minister Najib Razak during a joint police-army exercise.
Malaysian police stand guard before the arrival of prime minister Najib Razak during a joint police-army exercise. PHOTO: AFP

Four women among those nabbed; police to set up anti-terrorism units in all states

Malaysian police will be expanding their counter-terrorism department with units in every state, a move announced by police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who also said 15 terror suspects were nabbed yesterday.

The inspector-general of police, Tan Sri Khalid, said 11 men and four women, aged between 22 and 49, were arrested in a massive operation that began on Tuesday.

The suspects, who were caught in six states - Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Terengganu as well as in Kuala Lumpur City - included a police officer, an imam, a housewife, a student and an aircraft technician.

"All the suspects were involved in receiving instructions from Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi to launch an attack in Malaysia," Mr Khalid said in a statement yesterday. Wanndy is a Malaysian member of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group who is currently in Syria.

The suspects had collected funds for terror activities, attempted to assemble chemical ingredients for bombs and arranged to smuggle two foreign militants out of Malaysia into another South-east Asian country which the police did not name.

Mr Khalid told The Star that the threat of terrorism is real and the police force is in the midst of transferring personnel to establish counter-terrorism divisions in each of Malaysia's 13 states.

"We have to take action on the slightest information we have on those involved with (ISIS) and even the sympathisers. We cannot afford to wait and see as some others did," Mr Khalid told The Star in the wake of a terror attack in Brussels that left 31 people dead.

Criminologist P. Sundramoorthy told The Straits Times that though it is good that counter-terrorism branches are to be set up nationwide, this will not solve the root cause of the problem.

He said society at large cannot solely depend on the police and must help in providing information to the law enforcement authorities.

In Parliament yesterday, the Home Ministry said in a written reply that a total of 162 people linked to Daesh - another name for ISIS - have been detained as of March 14.

The ministry said it was committed to combating militant activity and confirmed that no foreign funds have been brought into the country for domestic or overseas terrorism purposes so far.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said police have detected eight groups in the country conducting "deviant" Islamic teachings with militant elements and had taken action against six of them.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid said the police were working with other federal and state authorities to monitor these groups.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia arrests 15 terror suspects'. Print Edition | Subscribe