Malaysian ex-army commando arrested in Saudi Arabia for links with ISIS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - For 10 years, he served at Kem Sungai Udang in Malacca. As a commando he was an expert in making and defusing bombs, was able to handle various firearms and trained to survive the most adverse conditions in various terrain.

But after leaving the Malaysian Armed Forces some 18 months ago, he used those abilities to serve an entirely different cause - terror.

The 29-year-old Malaysian, who hails from Perak, is the latest in a string of recruits to be arrested for activities connected to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He was among 135 ISIS-linked militants detained by Saudi Arabian authorities in Riyadh on Dec 28.

The former commando was nabbed with the rest of a terror cell at the Saudi-Jordanian border.

Many of those caught had gone to “zones of conflict, joined extremist groups and trained in the handling of weapons before returning to Saudi Arabia to destabilise the country,” The Daily Star in Lebanon reported.

Others were implicated in the “financing, recruitment, propaganda and manufacture of explosives in aid of extremist groups” while some were linked to unrest and armed attacks on security forces in Awamiya, a community in Eastern Province, just west of Dammam city.

Sources said the Malaysian was arrested with an ISIS flag in his possession.

“Authorities believe that he had been involved with the terror cell for quite some time,” a source told The Star on Thursday.

They said the speed and manner in which the man abandoned his former life had caught his family off-guard.

He was discharged from the military in July 2013, but it was while accompanying his father for the umrah on Dec 15 that things really came to light.

The source said that when it was time for them to return home on Dec 18, the man was nowhere to be found.

“His father was perplexed over his missing son but reluctantly returned home after he could not be traced.

“The father lodged a missing persons report upon arriving back in Malaysia,” the source revealed.

While initially shocked over his son’s disappearance, authorities said the farmer had suspicions over his son’s involvement with the militant group.

“After quitting the army, the suspect started going for usra (dakwah sessions) in Perak. He even started donating to ‘jihadists’ causes and movements in Malaysia,” the source said.

It is learnt that Malaysian authorities have contacted their Saudi counterparts over the status of the suspect.

In Jeddah, a source close to the Malaysian consulate said the consulate-general was investigating the matter with other authorities.

The arrests came as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Bahrain took part in US-led strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Malaysia’s Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division has also stepped up operations against Malaysians involved with ISIS.

Since February 2013, 51 people have been arrested here.

Among those arrested were civil servants, navy and air force personnel and even an Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry officer.

A former National Service trainer along with private and public university students were among the latest arrests made.