'Malaysia has 50,000 ISIS sympathisers'

KUALA LUMPUR • There are an estimated 50,000 Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathisers in Malaysia, said its transport minister, warning that the nation needed to guard against radicalisation of some of its citizens.

The influence of ISIS among Malaysians is a real threat that cannot be ignored, said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai yesterday at a conference on national security and the threat of ISIS in Kuala Lumpur, reported Malaysian newspaper The Star.

Mr Liow said that according to the Malaysian Special Branch, there are an estimated 50,000 ISIS sympathisers in Malaysia.

"If only 1 per cent turn radical and if they attack any part of Malaysia we will be in trouble," he cautioned.

According to a report released this month by New York-based security consulting firm The Soufan Group, about 100 Malaysian citizens are estimated to have travelled to join ISIS in Syria.

More than 100 suspected militants have been detained, the Malaysian police have said.

The authorities have also said that they have foiled several terror plots in the country, including one on kidnapping top politicians.

In September, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that his country will set up a messaging centre to counter the terrorists' narrative of Islam, and will also use social media and other messaging tools.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2015, with the headline ''Malaysia has 50,000 ISIS sympathisers''. Print Edition | Subscribe