Malaysia on lookout for Uighurs suspected of terror plot

Malaysian Police personnel giving directions to a foreign tourist outside a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 23, 2016.
Malaysian Police personnel giving directions to a foreign tourist outside a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 23, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Malaysia is working with Interpol and the Chinese government to monitor the movement of two Turks of Uighur descent who are suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Thailand and believed to be heading for Malaysia, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid said the government had received information on the two suspects who were believed to have used Thailand and Malaysia as transit points before moving to a third country.

"We have the system in place (to monitor them) and are now collaborating with regional enforcement agencies and intelligence," he said after an official event in Perak yesterday, the New Straits Times reported.

Last Friday, Thai newspaper Khaosod leaked an intelligence memorandum from Mr Wongsiri Promchana, the governor of Thailand's southern province of Surat Thani, which said two Uighurs and two Russians of Chechen descent were plotting terror attacks in Thailand.

The two Uighurs were identified as Ali Yalcin Egin and Hidayet Dorsun. They arrived in Phuket from an unidentified location on March 23.

Mr Wongsiri was cited as saying he received the intelligence dossier from the National Intelligence Coordination Centre, detailing a warning about possible terror attacks in Koh Samui and Phuket. Both places are expected to be crowded during the four-day Songkran festival that begins tomorrow.

State news agency Bernama last Saturday cited Mr Wongsiri as saying he had been alerted to the men's departure to Malaysia by the Phuket immigration office. "But this is just initial information from the immigration office which believes the names (of the Uighur men) are the same as in the (intelligence) memo," he told Bernama. He did not reveal the exact date the two Uighurs left Thailand for Malaysia and whether they travelled by land or air.

An intelligence source told Bernama the two could be headed to Malaysia en route to Turkey, Indonesia or Singapore.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told Bernama yesterday that police and other agencies had intensified surveillance on illegal routes, on top of keeping heightened vigilance at all legal entry and exit points to the country .

Two Chinese ethnic Uighur men were arrested last year for their involvement in an Aug 17 bombing at a Bangkok shrine that killed 20 people. The authorities said the bomb was in retaliation for a crackdown on human smuggling gangs and not a terrorist attack.

Lee Seok Hwai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'KL on lookout for Uighurs suspected of terror plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe