Malaysia says country's top leaders on ISIS kidnap list

Malaysia's Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
Malaysia's Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group planned to kidnap top Malaysian leaders on its "hit list" to demand the release of militants detained here.

According to Malaysian intelligence, two soldiers of an ISIS cell who were arrested and charged earlier this year drew up an elaborate plan to lead the kidnapped leaders to a secluded spot in the Klang Valley.

They would video record their capture. After making the demand for the release of their comrades, they would identify a secure place for the prisoner exchange to take place.

The terror network was not out to seek a ransom, only the release of their detained comrades, Malaysia's Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan revealed on Monday (Nov 16).

His comments came after Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein on Sunday said several Malaysian leaders, including himself, were on the ISIS "hit list".

SAC Ayob said information on the ISIS threat was made known before the joint Asean Defence Ministers Meeting at Langkawi in March.

"The IS was only out to secure the freedom of their fellow militants in Sungai Buloh Prison. It was not about making any ransom demand," he told The Star, using another name for ISIS.

Ayob said ISIS planned to use the prisoner exchange as a form of propaganda to "promote" its network.

He described the threat of ISIS in Malaysia as "real", as the latest ISIS doctrine pressed its members to carry out attacks in their home countries.

He cautioned that the situation in South-east Asia could turn volatile if lecturer-turned-militant Mahmud Ahmad had his way in forming a regional ISIS bloc.

Mahmud and his comrades - sundry goods shop owner Mohd Najib Husen and former local council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee - have been on Malaysia's wanted list since April last year. They have also been identified as individuals integral to a plan to form an "official" faction of ISIS in South-east Asia by bringing together terror groups in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, Ayob had told The Star last week.

"Our top priority is to stop him from his goal of getting to Syria and swearing an oath of allegiance before IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," he said.

He said police had tightened surveillance and security at all major entry points, especially airports, to prevent any militant from going to Syria.

On the Paris terror attacks, he said there was no record to show that one of the attackers had transited in Malaysia.

"We have checked the name on the passport recovered at the attack scene in Paris and found no such record," he added.

Malaysian police is on high alert following the terror attacks in Paris on Friday.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the carnage which killed at least 129 people.

Preparations for the Asean Summit here this week are also being relooked and security arrangements tightened, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Monday.

The police force will be deploying an increased number of personnel to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), where the summit will be held from Wednesday to Sunday.

Hishammuddin on Monday told reporters in Parliament the country was being targeted by ISIS militants for being a moderate face of Islam.

"Perhaps it is because we have taken a strong stand against them. We have united all 10 Asean-member countries against them, and are a moderate face of Islam, which is against what they stand for," he said, when asked why Malaysia, which was previously regarded a haven for terrorists to transit to the Middle East, was being targeted by ISIS.

"I see certain areas in this region are not being managed well, particularly southern Thailand and the southern Philippines, not to mention the free movement of people and smuggling of weapons," he said. "These are all issues which need to be taken seriously based on recent developments in Europe and the Middle East."