KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian counter-terrorism authorities have found a number of newly established extremist groups in the country, as well as previously neutralised terror cells that have been gaining momentum in their recruitment exercises, the New Straits Times reported yesterday.
Despite the arrest of more than 100 individuals this year who attempted to go to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, intelligence suggested there were scores of Malaysians still trying to evade the police to join ISIS.
Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-terrorism Division (SB-CTD) principal assistant director, said that although only nine people slipped through the police net and made their way to Syria this year, the number of people arrested for attempting to travel to the conflict-hit country had increased significantly.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayob added that until last month, the SB-CTD had arrested 112 individuals. That was a rise from the 82 Malaysians nabbed last year for trying to travel to Syria.
He said that Kumpulan Tandzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia, Briged Al Jamaah, Kumpulan Fisabilillah, Kumpulan Daulah Islamiah Malizia, Al Qubro Generation and Kumpulan Gagak Hitam were the terror cells that counter-terrorism officials are keeping a close eye on.
Malaysians arrested while trying to travel to Syria this year.
Malaysians are in Syria fighting for ISIS.
Malaysians have died while fighting for ISIS.
Newly established group Kumpulan Gagak Hitam, in particular, has been on an aggressive recruitment drive, with 38 members now in the group, SAC Ayob said.
Intelligence suggests that Kumpulan Fisabilillah, another new outfit, now has 13 ready-to-die fighters under its wing, he added.
Malaysian terror cells subscribe to the same Salafi ideology of ISIS and their goal is to "free Malaysia" from the "shackles of secularism", said SAC Ayob, adding that the groups were using social media platforms to recruit new members. Salafis are fundamentalists who believe in a return to the original ways of Islam.
He shared the confession of one ISIS supporter who was caught as he was leaving to fight in Syria.
"The suspect told our officers that he wanted to go there for 'redemption', saying he was battling with the guilt of his past sins and was hoping to die a martyr. He said it was an Islamic scholar who told him that it was the right thing to do if he ever wanted to taste heaven," said SAC Ayob.
He highlighted the myriad propaganda tools used by ISIS to justify its cause, noting the role played by some groups, including religious teachers, in misguiding the public and promoting the Salafi ideology, reported the New Straits Times.
SAC Ayob said that while his men were working round the clock to stop the spread of extremist views - visiting villages and even schools and colleges - killing the ISIS ideology was a great challenge.
There are currently 60 Malaysians, including 12 women and 17 children, in Syria. Besides the nine suicide bombers, 18 other Malaysians have died while fighting there.