Malaysian police nab more ISIS-linked suspects

Security measures have been stepped up at KL Sentral following the grenade attack at a nightspot in Puchong which was linked to ISIS.
Security measures have been stepped up at KL Sentral following the grenade attack at a nightspot in Puchong which was linked to ISIS.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police said they had arrested several more suspects with links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, as the authorities intensify efforts to curb the spread of its radical ideology, particularly in universities, The Star reported yesterday.

More arrests are expected in the next few days, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told the newspaper.

"We are still on the manhunt for the two suspects involved in the Puchong grenade attack," he said on Thursday at the Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house of Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.

"They have gone into hiding but we are confident of tracking them down in due course."

Tan Sri Khalid said police were monitoring closely social websites and deploying more personnel to keep watch on "sensitive areas".

He also reminded the media not to publicise the activities or any new threats issued by the militants that could be detrimental to the country's peace and security.

"Let's not give them space and the avenue to project themselves. We are aware that several of them are aiming to be the cell leader by planning more dastardly acts," he said, adding that the police had their own strategy of checking and countering the movement.

Mr Khalid said that so far, no other personnel from within the force had been influenced by the movement except for two rank- and-file members who had already been detained for questioning.

It has been learnt that three Malaysians were competing to become the ISIS chapter's head in the country, according to The Star.

A nationwide manhunt has been launched to track down Md Saifuddin Muji, 28, and Jasanizam Rosni, 33, for their alleged role in the bombing in Puchong last week.

Apart from social media, the authorities are also keeping a close watch on local universities where the ISIS influence may be strong, said the Deputy Prime Minister on Wednesday.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said such monitoring of universities was being carried out not just in Malaysia. Other countries were doing the same thing at their universities.

Two of the seven ISIS attackers who killed 20 people at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week were reported to have previously studied at Monash University in Selangor, The Star said.

Dr Zahid said the government would enlist the assistance of former terrorists who had repented to help counter the spread of extremist ideology in the country. They will be asked to speak at universities to boost awareness about the dangers of extremism.

In Kuala Lumpur, Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist P. Sundramoorthy said the appeal of ISIS has become so diverse that it transcends socio-economic demographics.

He cited the former Monash students in the Dhaka attack as an example. They were reportedly popular, came from well-to-do families and were well educated.

Consultant psychiatrist Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran said ISIS was slyly portraying itself on social media as fighters battling against injustice and oppression.

He said its recruitment campaign offers a cause similar to the type that many university students typically gravitate towards.

"Traditionally, universities encourage idealism. University students are sensitive to injustice and political, social or religious movements, which makes them easy to radicalise," he said.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has appealed to the people to cooperate in the country's fight against the militant threat.

"First and foremost, we must reject extremism and militancy. Use awareness, moderation as the basis," he said in a live broadcast from the Hari Raya open house he hosted at Seri Perdana on Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian police nab more ISIS-linked suspects'. Print Edition | Subscribe