Malaysia nabs 4 ISIS suspects, including 'one planning KL suicide attack'

Indonesian anti-terrorist policemen stand guard at the site of the Jan 14 attacks and bomb blasts in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 16, 2016.
Indonesian anti-terrorist policemen stand guard at the site of the Jan 14 attacks and bomb blasts in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan 16, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

The authorities have nabbed another four Malaysians for alleged involvement with terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), including a man who was planning a suicide bomb attack in the capital city.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said a 28-year-old Terengganu-born man  had admitted he was planning to be a suicide bomber after receiving instructions from the militant group. "He had received orders from an ISIS leader in Syria to carry out an attack in Malaysia," Tan Sri Khalid said in a statement yesterday.

The suspect was also responsible for hanging ISIS flags in several locations in Terengganu, Perak, Selangor and Johor, Mr Khalid said, adding that they were intended to warn the Malaysian government to stop its operations against ISIS members.

The suspect was arrested on Friday at a train station in Ampang, just a few kilometres  from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

An intelligence source told The Sunday Times that the police had retrieved a knife and ISIS documents from the suspect's house. "In terms of planning (the attack), he was still at the early stage," the source said.

The Malaysian Insider news portal quoted police sources as saying the suspect  was planning an attack on a popular entertainment outlet in Kuala Lumpur.

The other three suspects, aged between 23 and 28, were detained by the Turkish authorities on Nov 15 last year for trying to sneak into Syria to join ISIS. Two of them, a married couple, were deported to Malaysia last Monday and arrested upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

"All of them were recruited by Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi @ Abu Hamzah, a Malaysian who joined ISIS through Facebook and the Telegram app," Mr Khalid said, adding that Muhammad Wanndy had been instrumental in planning the three suspects' entry into Syria.

Police had  stepped up security at public places in the wake of the attacks in Jakarta, Indonesia, last Thursday. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Authority had also ramped up surveillance of sea entry points and was monitoring  immigrants who may bring militant ideologies into the country, the official Bernama news agency reported.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday that he will "fight tooth and nail against any form of terrorism and extremism".

The heightened alert comes amid concerns that militants are dressing to blend in with the crowd to avoid detection. The intelligence source said the suspect who was planning a suicide attack was dressed in T-shirt and jeans when he was detained.

Criminologist P. Sundramoorthy told The Sunday Times the nondescript look was similar to that of the suspects in the Jakarta attacks. "Terrorists are not going to look like the stereotypical religious Islamic individuals. They have capabilities in assessing the risk of detection by the authorities and will blend in with society. This means it will be more challenging when it comes to profiling these terrorists. It will be a definitive threat in society in years to come."

The Star reported that a 62-page guide, which surfaced on the Internet this month, contains detailed instructions on how "lone wolves" should conduct themselves to evade detection. It advises militants to avoid wearing a beard or robes, and to refrain from going to places like mosques or Islamic libraries. "You should also wear Western-style clothes to appear neutral and not draw attention to yourself,"  it says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia nabs 4 ISIS suspects, including 'one planning KL suicide attack''. Print Edition | Subscribe