Malaysia warns of ISIS threat to Myanmar

Myanmar held state ceremonies yesterday in Naypyitaw and Yangon to mark the country's 69th Independence Day. Here, independence veteran Nyin Nay, 92, is assisted by relatives after a dawn flag-raising ceremony in Yangon yesterday.
Myanmar held state ceremonies yesterday in Naypyitaw and Yangon to mark the country's 69th Independence Day. Here, independence veteran Nyin Nay, 92, is assisted by relatives after a dawn flag-raising ceremony in Yangon yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Authorities nab suspected ISIS follower planning attack in support of Rohingya cause

KUALA LUMPUR • Myanmar faces a growing danger of attacks by foreign supporters of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruited from South-east Asian networks in support of the persecuted Muslim Rohingya community, Malaysia's top counter-terrorism official has said.

The Malaysian authorities have detained a suspected ISIS follower planning to head to Myanmar to carry out attacks, the head of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, said in an interview.

The suspect, an Indonesian whom he did not identify, was detained in Malaysia last month.

The suspect was scheduled to be charged yesterday with possession of materials linked to terrorist groups, which carries a seven-year jail term or fine, he said.

More militants are likely to try to follow his lead in support of the Rohingya cause, he said.

"He was planning to perform jihad in Myanmar, fighting against the Myanmar government for this Rohingya group in Rakhine state," SAC Ayob said.

The Indonesian suspect was among seven people arrested for suspected links to ISIS. The suspect was also involved in a plot to smuggle weapons to Indonesia's Poso region, on Sulawesi island, SAC Ayob said.

He did not say what group the suspect, a factory worker who had been in Malaysia since 2014, was trying to link up with in Myanmar.

He said the suspect was in contact with Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a Syria-based Malaysian militant who claimed responsibility on behalf of ISIS for a grenade attack on a Kuala Lumpur bar in June last year.

Meanwhile, a commission probing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state yesterday denied security forces had abused Rohingya, days after a video emerged showing police beating civilians from the Muslim minority.

The size of the "Bengali" population, mosques and religious buildings in the unrest-hit area "are proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution", it said in a statement.

Myanmar refuses to recognise the Rohingya as one of the country's ethnic minorities, describing them as "Bengalis" - or illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The commission, headed by a former army general until recently blacklisted by Washington, also found "insufficient evidence" of rape and was still looking into claims of arson, illegal arrests and torture of the Rohingya.

Legal action has been taken against 485 civilians, it said, without giving further details.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia warns of ISIS threat to Myanmar'. Print Edition | Subscribe