KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Operating under the codename Gagak Hitam (Black Crow), the terror cell boasted a line-up of members with proper day jobs, but who quietly took orders from top Malaysian Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi.
Among the cell members were businessmen, technicians, bank staff, an executive manager and even a school counsellor.
However, Bukit Aman embarked on a six-state swoop in the past two weeks, nailing 16 suspected militants.
Fourteen of them came from the Gagak Hitam terror cell whose members had been in close contact with Muhammad Wanndy, now based in Syria.
Two others detained in the special operation between Sept 21 and Oct 6 were a 20-year-old undergraduate of a university in Johor and a 32-year-old North African man who is a member of the Jahbat Al Nusra terror group.
Aged between 20 and 38, the 16 men were apprehended in Selangor, Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, Penang and Sabah.
Sources said yesterday that Muhammad Wanndy had been relentlessly recruiting members and sympathisers in his bid to launch attacks in Malaysia.
"He was not happy with the outcome of the Movida bombing," said a source, referring to the blast at the restaurant in Selangor on June 28 which injured eight people.
The source said there was no indication yet whether the cell members had received any orders from Muhammad Wanndy recently.
In a statement yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the 14 Gagak Hitam members had sworn allegiance to Muhammad Wanndy, who was the mastermind of the bombing at the Movida nightclub.
"We believe these cell members have been channelling funds to their leader," he said.
As for the 20-year-old university student, he was detained upon his arrival at the KL International Airport on Sept 22, said Tan Sri Khalid.
"He went to Istanbul on Sept 7 with the intention of entering Syria and joining IS. However, he was detained by Turkish authorities a day later via information from Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division," he said, using another acronym for ISIS.
The North African man, who is linked to the Jahbat Al Nusra group, was believed to have sneaked into Malaysia in May.
"He is involved in falsifying travel documents for the terror group," IGP Khalid said.
It is learnt that Muhammad Wanndy has already amassed more than RM100,000 (S$33,144) based on "donations" from his cell members and sympathisers.
Sources revealed that the Malacca-born militant received at least RM8,000 monthly.
Another source said that Muhammad Wanndy had pushed his cell members to perform lone wolf attacks, even to the extent of becoming suicide bombers.
"He managed his cells by splitting them into smaller groups to avoid detection. For example, one cell would supply weapons while another performs the attack. His modus operandi is also to get the cells to arrange dead drops of weapons to evade the authorities," a source said.
Bukit Aman's latest swoop brings the number of militants arrested to 256 since February 2013.
In August, police nabbed three people believed to have planned Merdeka-eve attacks at the Batu Caves, the Kajang police headquarters and various entertainment outlets.
Last year, more than three terror plots planned by cells taking orders from Muhammad Wanndy were thwarted.