Most ISIS plots to hit Malaysia 'planned locally'

One of the suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants being arrested by the Malaysian police.
One of the suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants being arrested by the Malaysian police. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KL anti-terrorism official says threat 'very much contained' for now due to militants' limited capabilities and police effort

The Malaysian authorities disclosed yesterday that most terror acts planned for the country by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were hatched locally. The terrorist threat is contained in Malaysia for now due to the limited capabilities of the cell members and the continuing police effort to thwart them.

"This threat to create chaos is very much contained," said Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the police counter-terrorism division's principal assistant director.

In a briefing to foreign diplomats in Malaysia, Mr Ayob said "most plots were masterminded by local Daesh elements without instruction or coordination from Syria", using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. He said that only three plots were based on directives from the group's main base in the war-torn Middle East nation.

He made the comments amid encouragement by ISIS leaders for their followers in South-east Asia to launch local attacks, as the group loses territories in its stronghold.

Last week, the Indonesian police nabbed a group in Batam whose leader was planning to launch an attack on Singapore's Marina Bay, using a rocket.

Their arrests came after collaborative intelligence efforts between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, said Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

 

"What happened in Singapore was the result of information sharing from Indonesia and Malaysia, and so we and the Singaporean authorities took immediate measures," he told reporters.

In June, ISIS launched its first attack in Malaysia when two men threw a grenade into a nightspot in Puchong, Selangor, injuring eight people.

Police said that despite the group's attack, security in Malaysia is still under control as cell members have not mastered the skills to produce improvised explosive devices (IEDs) even though they have access to bomb-making materials. "They lack the expertise to manufacture IEDs," said Mr Ayob.

Official updated figures showed that since 2013 police have arrested 230 members of ISIS in Malaysia, with most arrests made this year.

Of the total, 200 were Malaysians. Police have secured 48 convictions and 77 were charged, while 59 others were released.

Ninety Malaysians were also found to have gone to Syria, with 21 killed, including seven suicide bombers. Eight Malaysians returned and were arrested.

The authorities have embarked on a rehabilitation programme for militants from 2001 when terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah was active in the region. The group was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings.

Malaysia's success rate for rehabilitation is 95 per cent, said Mr Ayob.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that successful rehabilitation depends on the participant's willingness to follow the programme's steps.

"The 5 per cent failure rate is (the result of) those who did not want to take part in any of the modules we have laid out for them," said Datuk Nur Jazlan.

Additionally, the officials also assured foreign corporations that recent shooting incidents in Malaysia were mostly gang-related.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Most ISIS plots to hit Malaysia 'planned locally''. Print Edition | Subscribe