KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia has arrested two men believed to have links with militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including one who allegedly walked around its capital armed with a knife aiming to kill Buddhist monks, police said on Monday (Jan 22).
The Muslim-majority South-east Asian nation has been on high alert since gunmen linked to ISIS launched several attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia, in Jan 2016.
The two suspects were arrested in two separate raids in December and January, on suspicion of planning to carry out acts of violence and promoting ISIS ideology.
One of them, a 23-year-old Indonesian who was arrested last week on Jan 17, had allegedly scoured a busy district of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in November, seeking Buddhist monks to kill, in retaliation for violence suffered by Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
"The attempt failed, and police managed to confiscate a knife during the raid," Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, the inspector-general of police, said in a statement.
The suspect had planned to attack the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman as well as the Travers police station.
He added that the suspect had also allegedly communicated with a senior ISIS leader over WhatsApp, had sought to recruit several other Indonesians and put up an ISIS flag at the building site where he worked.
The other suspect, a 25-year-old Malaysian teacher at a private religious school, was detained in Dec on suspicion of planning an attack on entertainment outlets and to rob, kidnap or kill non-Muslims.
The suspect, who had been previously jailed under Malaysia's anti-terror law, had also maintained contact with former members of known terror groups and promoted ISIS ideology on his Facebook account to recruit new members, police said.
Separately, the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday sentenced a former factory supervisor to eight years in jail for attempting to go to Syria with intent to commit terrorist acts.
Mohamad Awang, 42, was arrested in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 21 last year with a flight ticket, an international passport, a handphone and several SIM cards in his possession. He had planned to go to Syria via Teheran.
Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people over the past few years for suspected links to militant groups.
A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in June 2016 wounded eight people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, the first such incident on Malaysian soil.
Mr Fuzi also said in a statement on Monday that police will be ramping up security during the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam on Jan 31. "Police will be increasing security measures in all locations across the country to prevent untoward incidents that could disrupt the event," he said.