KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian police are pushing for the all-new anti-terror law to be tabled in Parliament next month to keep the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in check.
Records show that the number of Malaysians heading to Syria has increased despite well-publicised atrocities involving the group and ongoing enforcement efforts by the authorities.
Bukit Aman's Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division principal assistant director Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk Ayob Khan said the division identified 30 Malaysians who went to Syria to join the ISIS between January and June last year.
"The number doubled to 61 people in the second half of the year. We fear that it will increase further in the next six months," he said on Wednesday.
He said this was certainly not unique to Malaysia as other countries in the region also experienced the same problem.
"In the first half of last year, some 300 Asian fighters joined the IS ranks. It doubled to 600 towards the end of the year. The number of foreign terrorist fighters in Syria was 13,000 in early 2014 but our intelligence has indicated the number has swelled to 20,000."
SAC Ayob said a new anti-terror law was vital to prevent Malaysians from joining the ISIS and to deal with the terror group's threat effectively.
"Among the Malaysians in Syria are eight families, including two who got married over there. Their children will automatically join the IS. We have information that children as young as five are fighting for them," he said.
SAC Ayob revealed that Bukit Aman had arrested 68 militants since February 2013 - 24 were charged while six were being held under the Prevention of Crime Act. A total of 25 others had to be set free due to lack of evidence.
"The remaining 13 (12 Indonesians and a Middle Eastern man) were deported to their home countries," he said.
There were also a number of Syria-bound militants caught at Kuala Lumpur International Aiport,
SAC Ayob said the militants normally used "winding routes" to get into Syria in an attempt to evade the authorities.
Malaysia, he said, was also a popular transit point for foreign militants, adding that foreign militants from five countries were found to have used the country as a transit point.
"We will remain vigilant and be on alert for any militant using our shores for transit."
SAC Ayob said the division was concerned about the threat of the lone wolf attack.
"We don't know when the lone wolf attack will happen. It has occurred in other countries so it is not impossible for it to occur here."
He said that based on the ISIS ideology and Facebook posting by known militants, there was a likelihood that such attacks could occur anywhere.