Malaysia has launched an anti-terror unit, comprising officers from the police, armed forces and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, to act as first responders to local terror threats, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.
The 170-strong National Special Operations Force (NSOF) includes 17 officers and will act to counter land, air and water threats.
It is based at the Sungai Besi military camp just outside capital city Kuala Lumpur.
The launch of the NSOF comes at a time of heightened security in the region amid concerns of the possible return of Malaysian militants who have been fighting in Syria and Iraq, and possible fresh attacks.
Iraqi forces and their allies are battling to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, the capital of ISIS' self-styled caliphate in Iraq.
An offensive is being planned within weeks to retake Raqqa in Syria, the de facto capital of the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria .
NSOF acts as a quick-reaction force to curb terrorism in the early stages. The land, air and maritime units will be mobilised as the early group and will confront, fight and eliminate the threats. Once the threat has been eliminated, NSOF will hand over the operation to security forces.
MALAYSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, in a statement about the National Special Operations Force
Malaysia experienced its first ISIS attack in June when a hand grenade was thrown into a bar, injuring eight people.
Since 2013, the Malaysian authorities have arrested more than 250 men and women for their alleged connections to ISIS.
"NSOF acts as a quick-reaction force to curb terrorism in the early stages. The land, air and maritime units will be mobilised as the early group and will confront, fight and eliminate the threats," said the Ministry of Defence in a statement.
"Once the threat has been eliminated, NSOF will hand over the operation to security forces," it said.
Officers are seconded from the three forces involved, with designated posts to be assigned once the unit becomes fully operational.
"Without peace and security, all bets are off," said Datuk Seri Najib in his speech at the launch of the NSOF.
Malaysia has several other special operations forces handling counter-terrorism, but the NSOF is the first to involve multi-agency cooperation.