KUCHING (Sarawak) • The Malaysian authorities have sent seven prison wardens for de-radicalisation programmes after they fell under the influence of detainees involved in militant groups, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.
The development has also prompted the Home Ministry to begin isolating detainees held for militant activities from regular prisoners, to curb the spread of terror ideology in the prison system, he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times (NST) on its website yesterday.
Announcing the detection of the seven radicalised wardens, Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said: "I know that this is news which will make everyone feel uncomfortable. However, this is not something we can deny... We have addressed this problem."
Malaysia has been battling a rise of militancy among its citizens, including those who swore loyalty to terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mr Zahid said yesterday that 63 Malaysians have travelled to the two Middle Eastern countries, and 261 suspected militants are behind bars.
Last month, two young Malaysians, who were directed by a Malaysian militant based in Syria, threw a grenade into a nightspot in Selangor - the first successful strike by the terror group in the moderate Muslim country.
Mr Zahid said the government is pulling out all the stops in combating militant activity, NST reported.
"That is why we have begun separating detainees with militant ideologies from regular prisoners to avoid the spread of such influences within prisons in the country," said Mr Zahid.
He also said that the Home Ministry is refurbishing the high-security Kamunting prison to house ISIS-linked detainees and enable them to undergo de-radicalisation.
The programme will be supervised by the Prison Department, police, Health Ministry as well as Islamic departments.
"We have refurbished it and built a new block where these suspects will be detained," he was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper.
The prison, located in remote Kamunting in northern Perak state, was the main detention centre for high-security detainees.