Malaysia sets up new federal counter-terrorism department

KUALA LUMPUR - A new federal counter-terrorism department is in the works at the Royal Malaysia Police to enhance the forces’ ability to fight terrorism, reported the New Straits Times on Friday (July 7).

The new department will be have 500 personnel, more than double the 200 officers who are drawn from various state forces by the existing special branch counter-terrorism division. These officers investigate terror financing, carry out rehabilitation, monitor threats and the players involved and engage the community to prevent radicalism.

According to the NST, the new department is part of a recently announced major reshuffle at the police force ahead of the next general election due by August next year and the upcoming SEA Games.

The new counter-terrorism department will be helmed by a second deputy inspector-general of police (IGP), a newly-created post.

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Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Minister, confirmed on Friday there is a need to have two deputy IGPs but that the government would only make an announcement on the second deputy IGP after a meeting by the police commission, reported The Star news site.  

Sources however told the New Straits Times that the new post is likely to be filled by current special branch chief Fuzi Harun.

Datuk Seri Fuzi, 58, has more than 25 years of experience in the force, and has been special branch director since July 2015. He used to be a director in the Special Task Force on operations and counter-terrorism.

Meanwhile the person likely to lead the new counter-terrorism department is the existing special branch counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who was described by a source as someone who has been “eating, sleeping and breathing” counter-terrorism in his many years in the force.

“The establishment of this new department is timely, especially when terror threats are growing in this region. The country needs more trained personnel to keep Malaysia safe from radicalism and extremism, including the war against the Islamic State group,” the source said, referring to the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

Separately, The Star reported that secondary school teacher Razis Awang, 31, was charged at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Friday with supporting ISIS and possessing images related to the terror group on his mobile phone.

He was accused of providing support to ISIS via the Telegram chat group “Gagak Hitam”, which in the Malay language means Black Crow.