Malaysian police say ISIS has trained suicide squad for attacks

Malaysian Special Force police members demonstrate their skills during the Independence Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug 31 2016.
Malaysian Special Force police members demonstrate their skills during the Independence Day celebrations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Aug 31 2016.PHOTO: EPA

KUALA LUMPUR • A squad of aspiring suicide bombers has been trained by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to carry out missions in Malaysia, according to Malaysian police.

Datuk Ayob Khan, the Malaysian police Special Branch's principal assistant director for counter- terrorism, said evidence gleaned from intelligence sources strongly pointed to several individuals pursuing the ISIS cause, according to an exclusive report published by the New Straits Times (NST) yesterday.

He said these aspiring attackers considered themselves "ISIS operatives", had been trained, and were just as radicalised as the eight Malaysians nabbed so far who had returned from Syria to carry out attacks back home. The eight all had battleground experience, he said. One had a gunshot wound and another, aged just 18, had spent hundreds of hours fighting Syrian government forces.

Several international security experts, who were in Kuala Lumpur for a two-day meeting of counter-terrorism professionals, have said that as ISIS loses ground in Syria due to the fightback by security forces, more fighters would return to their home countries to continue their violent campaigns, the NST reported.

The experts at the International Association of Counter-terrorism and Security Professionals Asean Security Symposium also said that what they termed the "boomerang effect", in which foreign ISIS terrorists in Syria return to their home grounds to pursue the group's expansion plans, was taking place quickly.

These concerns were echoed by Mr Ayob, who was quoted by the NST as saying that this would be exacerbated by the release, in stages, of convicted Indonesian terrorists from the Jemaah Islamiah group.

"We are extremely concerned... that these detainees possess the expertise to launch large-scale attacks, (and) have established networking groups at the regional and global stage, driven by respected leaders," he was quoted by the NST as saying. "This will be a boon for ISIS elements, whether in Malaysia or Indonesia, which have limited capability to produce large-scale IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and restricted working relationships with foreign militant organisations."

Mr Ayob also told the NST about his concerns that Indonesian militant Bahrum Shah had been encouraging Malaysian ISIS sympathisers to carry out attacks in the country. The leader of Katibah Nusantara, a joint group of Indonesian and Malaysian ISIS fighters formed in late 2014, "has the funds, and this is dangerous as it means that he is able to initiate large-scale attacks", the NST quoted him as saying.

"If funds start to come from Syria, in the near future, they will launch a big attack," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian police say ISIS has trained suicide squad for attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe