KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - There are still 65 Malaysians trapped in Syria and 39 of them are pleading for Malaysian authorities to bring them home, police said.
Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division chief Ayob Khan said that 39 have contacted their families or even the police directly, asking to be brought home.
"The number is growing. The latest contact we received was during this fasting month," he said to a press conference at Seri Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday (May 18).
He said that of the 39, most were women and children currently located in the Al-Houl refugee camp.
"There are 11 women, 12 boys and six girls in the camp. As for the men, nine are being detained at the Al-Hasakah prison and one more in Idlib," he said.
He said that the police are working to bring the Malaysians home but the process takes time as it involves coordinating with various quarters.
Deputy Commissioner Ayob said everyone of them would be questioned and given counselling upon their return.
"The men will be arrested and questioned. As for the women and children, it will depend on their cases because they had to follow their husband (or family).
"During the questioning process, counsellors, psychologists and ustaz (Islamic religious teachers) will provide counselling, advice and evaluate them so that they will not get involved in terrorism again," he added.
Datuk Ayob was speaking to reporters after attending an annual buka puasa (breaking fast) dinner function at the hotel with 122 former militants and detainees, along with their families, who have since rejoined society.
"This dinner is part of our efforts to continue close ties with each of our former detainees. We are with them every step of the way, from being detained and after being released.
"We visit them regularly and they can contact us if they are facing any problems, financially or employment-wise. We will try to help them. The goal is to make sure they do not fall through the cracks and become isolated," he said.
Ayob said there are over 500 former detainees in Malaysia but this close relationship forged by the police with them has been hugely successful in keeping them from going back to their old ways.
"We have 239 former detainees who were linked to Jemaah Islamiyah. Thanks to our programmes and looking out for them, only seven had gone back to extremism," he said.
The dinner is organised annually since 2003. Aside from Kuala Lumpur, it was also held in Johor last week, and is scheduled to be held in Tawau and Sandakan on Sunday.