Student, housewife among 15 terror suspects held in Malaysia for planning attacks

Malaysia's Special Branch's Counter Terrorism Division arresting a 51-year-old homemaker for her alleged plans to attack non-Muslims and non-Muslim houses of worship by using her car.
Malaysia's Special Branch's Counter Terrorism Division arresting a 51-year-old homemaker for her alleged plans to attack non-Muslims and non-Muslim houses of worship by using her car.PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
 Malaysia’s Special Branch’s Counter Terrorism Division taking a 17-year-old schoolboy into custody. The teenager made six molotov cocktails to be used in attacks at non-Muslim houses of worship.
Malaysia’s Special Branch’s Counter Terrorism Division taking a 17-year-old schoolboy into custody. The teenager made six molotov cocktails to be used in attacks at non-Muslim houses of worship.PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
 A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah.
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah. PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah.
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah. PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah.
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah. PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah.
A team of Counter Terrorism officers arresting one of the suspects nabbed in Sabah. PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA
The woman, who began joining ISIS-affiliated chat groups in 2014, planned to head to Syria if her attack was successful.
The woman, who began joining ISIS-affiliated chat groups in 2014, planned to head to Syria if her attack was successful. PHOTO: COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISION, SPECIAL BRANCH, MALAYSIA

KUALA LUMPUR - She looks like a normal middle-aged woman who would spend her day looking after her husband and children.

But underneath the housewife persona is a woman who allegedly planned to carry out a suicide mission on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Malaysia.

The 51-year-old, whose identity has been withheld by Malaysian authorities, was among 15 people arrested in the latest series of terror swoops. They were conducted between March 27 and May 9 in five states - Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor, Kelantan and Sabah.

"The woman was arrested in Puchong, Selangor on May 9. She had plans to launch attacks on non-Muslims by using her car to run over them at polling centres during the 14th general elections," said national police Mohamad Fuzi Harun in a statement.

"She had also planned to crash into non-Muslim places of worship with her vehicle, carrying a gas cylinder used as a detonator."

Investigators are also probing whether her family was also involved with terror activities.

Last year, a Singaporean housewife who planned to join ISIS was detained without trial under the city-state's tough security laws. Munavar Baig Amina Begam, 38, a naturalised Singapore citizen originally from India, was radicalised online by a contact who convinced her the ISIS group was fighting to defend Sunni Muslims in the conflict zone.

 

Malaysian police also arrested a 17-year-old schoolboy who had pledged his alliance with the terror group. The boy was arrested on April 20 in Petaling Jaya.

"He made six molotov cocktails and has tested one of them at an open space in Damansara Damai. He had also recced several locations to launch his lone wolf attacks on non-Muslim houses of worship," Tan Sri Fuzi said.

Apart of making the explosives, Mr Fuzi said the teenager recorded a video in which he threatened to launch attacks.

"The video was uploaded on three ISIS-affiliated Whatsapp and one Telegram groups," he said.

On April 27, The Straits Times reported that a 17-year-old boy was detained in Malaysia after appearing in a video threatening to launch attacks in the country on behalf of the ISIS.

Wearing a balaclava, the youth is seen addressing viewers while holding an object believed to be a Molotov cocktail.

"To all un-Islamic security forces and governments, we will launch attacks on entertainment outlets. We will do it soon and we will win," he said in Malay.

An intelligence source told The Straits Times that the boy was not a scapegoat, which authorities had earlier believed, as he appeared "strong-willed".

"He did his homework, he learnt to make the explosives just to launch the attacks," the source said.

Among other suspected terrorists arrested in the latest operations were four Malaysians, six Filipinos - two of whom hold permanent resident status, a married couple from a North African country and a Bangladeshi.

The first to be arrested was a Malaysian man on March 27, nabbed at KL International Aiport after he was denied entry to Turkey. The 33-year-old had previously worked as a cleaner for a local council in Selangor.

"The man left for Turkey on Jan 31 and was later denied entry by the authorities there before being deported back to Malaysia on suspicion of attempting to slip into Syria to join ISIS," the top cop said. 

The young foreign couple were arrested on April 2 in Gombak. The duo are on their country's wanted list for their alleged involvement with ISIS. According to Mr Fuzi, they sneaked into Malaysia on March 16 and wanted to use the country as a transit point before leaving for another destination.

On April 2, the 41-year-old Bangladeshi, who owns a restaurant in Bukit Bintang, was arrested on suspicion on involvement in smuggling firearms to be used by international terrorists. "He was also flagged under Interpol's red notice," Mr Fuzi said.

On April 20, the Malaysia police also nabbed two of four individuals wanted for allegedly planning to attack non-Muslim places of worship and kidnap and kill policemen.

Meanwhile, seven suspects - a Malaysian and six Filipinos of which two hold permanent resident status - were arrested in Sabah on April 20 and 26.

Mr Fuzi said the terror cell was planning to collect firearms in Sabah to wage "jihad" in Marawi City in the Philippines.

Malaysia has arrested nearly 400 people for suspected links to terrorism since 2013.

The Muslim-majority nation faces threats from self-radicalised ISIS sympathisers at home, as well as from regional militant groups which have sought funding and refuge in South-east Asia.

The country's first and only terrorist attack took place in June 2016, when two men on a motorcycle lobbed a grenade into a nightclub in Selangor, injuring eight people. The men were sentenced to 25 years' jail.