Malaysia civil servant arrested for ISIS links was on long leave; believed to have met militants in Philippines

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The government officer arrested on suspicion of recruiting members into the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been away from work for almost a year, citing "family reasons".

The 37-year-old man had requested leave from work at the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry supposedly to take care of his mother.

However, police believed that he had been in southern Philippines meeting up with wanted Malaysian militants on the run, including 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.

The government officer, who holds the post of senior assistant director in one of the departments under the ministry, only returned to work last month.

The Star learnt that the officer, who is a Datuk, is an engineer and a mid-level management personnel on Grade 44. He is said to be from Pekan, Pahang.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said he was informed of the arrest on Wednesday and had directed the ministry to give its full cooperation to the police.

"The officer has been away for about a year and we have not seen him until he reported for duty on Sept 25.

"We don't know what transpired or what his activities were during his absence from work but we will assist the police in anyway we can," he said when asked to comment on the arrest of the ministry's officer.

Sources revealed that two women, who were among the 14 suspected militants detained in Shah Alam and Damansara, have been identified as two of the main recruiters of the Malaysian militant network.

The duo - a housewife and a widow - were the key movers in getting Malaysian female undergraduates to head to Syria to join the ISIS.

"Normally only men run the recruitment," the source said.

"However, these female recruiters have maternal instincts, which add to their effectiveness."

It is believed that the women have been in the militant group since early this year.

"They are so ingrained in their thinking that they truly believe they are performing the jihad. Little do they know that they are following a false jihad."

Sources also revealed that aside from the 34-year-old unemployed man who had returned from Syria, police have also identified another man who had fought for ISIS in Syria.

"These militants, who returned from Syria, served as the 'poster boys' for the recruitment drive. They would share their experiences in an effort to entice Malaysians to join them," the source said.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division made 14 arrests of suspected militants between Monday and Wednesday.

They included three key figures believed to be behind the recruitment of Malaysians into the ISIS. The youngest is a 14-year-old boy.

The three central figures were the ministry's senior assistant director, a 37-year-old unemployed man who runs a Facebook page to recruit militants and a 34-year-old jobless man who had returned from Syria.

Twelve of the suspects were detained at a restaurant in Shah Alam on Monday. Another was caught in a house in Damansara the next day. The last arrest was also in Damansara on Wednesday.