Malaysian cops to monitor ex-JI detainee and bomb expert after his return to Johor

There are fears that JI members might try to contact Taufik Abdul Halim, given his expertise on bombs.
There are fears that JI members might try to contact Taufik Abdul Halim, given his expertise on bombs.

39-year-old bomb expert has returned home after 12 years in Indonesian jail

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysian police say they will be monitoring the activities of former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) bomb expert Taufik Abdul Halim, after he returned home last week from serving 12 years in an Indonesian jail.

The Malaysian was influenced to join terror activities by his brother-in-law Zulkifli Abdul Khir, who is better known as Marwan, one of the world's most wanted terrorists.

Bernama reported that Taufik, 39, arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Wednesday night and was immediately taken by the police for a "lengthy" discussion, where he was advised not to be involved in militant activities again.

Malaysia's counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said police had no evidence to detain him because he was not involved in any violent activities in Malaysia.

But he said the authorities would constantly be in touch with Taufik and will track his movements, to make sure he is no longer a threat to national security.

The former Internal Security Act detainee is now believed to be back in his home town in Kluang, Johor.

The news of Taufik's return came just a day after the Indonesian authorities told The Straits Times that "no one had been released", in response to Malaysia's Home Minister Zahid Hamidi's comment that Jakarta would be releasing 350 former JI militants last Friday.

Datuk Seri Zahid subsequently clarified with The Straits Times that he meant that former JI militants "have begun being freed and will continued to be freed".

The Indonesian authorities could not confirm if Taufik had been released or repatriated when contacted yesterday.

A former architecture student at Malaysia's Universiti Teknologi Mara, Taufik had undergone training with the Al-Qaeda group in Afghanistan from 1995 to 1996.

He was detained in Indonesia for an attempted bombing at Jakarta's Atrium Plaza shopping complex in 2001. Taufik had tried to set off a bomb at the mall but it exploded prematurely, causing him to lose part of his right leg.

Separately, he was also linked to bombing incidents at two churches in east Jakarta.

In Malaysia, Taufik gained notoriety for his involvement in militant group Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia (KMM), The Star reported yesterday.

The KMM pulled off a heist at Southern Bank in Petaling Jaya in 2001, with the stolen loot used to fund terrorist groups in Jakarta and Ambon in Indonesia.

Datuk Ayob said that there is still a possibility that JI members will try to contact Taufik, given his ideology and expertise in making bombs.

"We fear that there might be matters that they would discuss among themselves. There is also a possibility that he would train members of the public who are keen to be involved in violence," he said.

"So far, what we do is to advise him to be no longer involved in matters that (go) against the law."

Mr Ayob also expressed concern about the possible subsequent release of more former JI militants, given that they share the same ideology as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in using terror to further their cause.

If they are released, there will be a "high risk" that former JI militants could be involved in ISIS activities, he said.

Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja and Shannon Teoh