KUALA LUMPUR • Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is moving Malaysian recruits from jobs as cleaners and guards in Syria to deadlier tasks - turning them into snipers and suicide bombers in Iraq, counter-terrorism officials here say.
At least three Malaysians have died so far as a result of the move, officials say.
Malaysians lured by the promise of ISIS ideals are being trained for such missions, as the terror group tries to regain its grip on Iraq, according to Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayub Khan.
"The presence of the IS (ISIS) in Syria is quite solid but the group is losing control over Iraq as many territories have fallen back to Iraqi government forces," he said.
"Our intelligence shows that they are relying more on Malaysians now to carry out strike missions against several key structures in Iraq," he told The Star newspaper on Wednesday.
Datuk Ayub said that the Malaysian militants were plucked from the Khatibah Nusantara cell in Syria to join special ops squads.
"The Khatibah Nusantara consists of Malaysian and Indonesian IS fighters," he said. "They band together as their languages and interests are similar."
This new development came to light following the deaths of three Malaysians in Iraq, believed to be on special ops missions.
One of them was Zid Saharani Mohamed Esa, 43, who died in a clash with Iraqi forces in Bayji, Iraq, on Aug 29. "We believe he was one of the snipers assigned to take out targets at an Iraqi government structure in Bayji," said Mr Ayub.
Zid, also known as Abu Hoor, had been detained under the Internal Security Act in 2002. He went to Bangkok last year to catch a flight to Turkey where he secured safe passage to Syria by land.
The two others killed were Muhamad Syazani Mohd Salim, 28, and Fadzly Ariff Zainal Ariff, 31.
Muhamad Syazani, known as Abu Aydan, was also killed in Bayji, during an attack on Sept 18.
Fadzly Ariff Zainal Ariff, who sold burgers in Malaysia, died on Sept 26 when he drove a truck filled with seven tonnes of explosives to a bridge in Buhayrat in Fallujah, killing a group of Iraqi soldiers.
"Our intelligence indicates that Fadzly Ariff, known as Abu Ubaidah, had attempted suicide bombings twice but failed as his explosives malfunctioned the previous times," said Mr Ayub, adding that the former burger seller went to Syria on Oct 11, 2013.
The latest deaths bring the number of Malaysians known to have been killed in Syria and Iraq to 14. So far, the police have identified 69 Malaysians who have joined ISIS in Syria, but the actual figure could be about 100, including children.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK