Malaysia's prisons under threat of radicalisation

Officers from the Malaysian Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division in an anti-terror raid in Sandakan, Sabah, last month that netted five suspected militants.
Officers from the Malaysian Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division in an anti-terror raid in Sandakan, Sabah, last month that netted five suspected militants.PHOTO: MALAYSIAN SPECIAL BRANCH COUNTER-TERRORISM DIVISION

Ex-detainee held for recruiting inmates; those jailed for militant activities to be kept isolated

Malaysia is facing a militant radicalisation threat in its prisons following the arrest of a 53-year-old former detainee, whom the police found had been actively recruiting inmates while he was serving time.

National police chief, Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, said the suspect, who had just been released from prison, was arrested with a 37-year-old acquaintance in Tapah, Perak, on Friday.

Mr Mohamad Fuzi said the former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee had been actively recruiting inmates in Tapah Prison after he was arrested in February 2013 and convicted of terror offences.

"We've known for quite some time that he had been recruiting inmates (there), but we can't disclose when it started. Those who have been radicalised have also been identified," Mr Mohamad Fuzi told The Sunday Times.

Since 2013, the Malaysian authorities have put at least 332 Malaysians and foreigners behind bars, as the country battles supporters and sympathisers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates.

Among those arrested were army personnel and policemen, as well as women who wanted to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Malaysia's Home Ministry has begun isolating detainees held for militant activities from other prisoners to curb the spread of terror ideology in the prison system.

The move came after seven prison wardens fell under the influence of detainees involved in militant groups last year.

Mr Mohamad Fuzi said the former ISA detainee's aim was to incite religious and racial conflicts in Malaysia.

"He had planned to launch attacks at places of worship belonging to Muslims, Christians and Hindus," he added.

"We also believe he had been protecting a militant from Tandzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia (TAQM), who is still at large and wanted by the police.

"Another man, a 37-year-old, is believed to have recruited two Malaysians to join TAQM with the help of the first suspect.

"This is precisely why we need to isolate detainees held for militant activities from regular prisoners."

 

The duo were among eight suspected militants, including five with links to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines, who were arrested in a series of anti-terror raids which took place between Sept 27 and Oct 6 in Sabah, Selangor and Perak.

In the first series of arrests, two Malaysians, two Filipinos and another Filipino with Malaysian permanent resident status were arrested in Sandakan, Sabah, on Sept 27.

"We believe they were making travel arrangements for ASG militants into Malaysia," he said.

A 35-year-old Albanian man, who is a guest lecturer at a Malaysian public university, was detained in Selangor on Oct 1 after police intelligence found that he had connections with ISIS militants overseas.

Malaysia faced its first terrorist attack in June last year when a grenade was lobbed into a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, injuring eight people. The two men responsible were sentenced to 25 years in jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 08, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia's prisons under threat of radicalisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe