KUALA LUMPUR - Suspected foreign terrorists are using forged Malaysian identification documents to enter the country without being detected, the New Straits Times reported on Monday (Feb 12).
Several suspected foreign terrorists had crossed the country's borders using assumed identities, the paper reported, citing police and an enforcement agency source.
They included those from the Philippines, who have sneaked into the country from Sabah through illegal sea lanes.
Once in Sabah, the men who are sought by authorities for their alleged terrorism involvement, would obtain their identification documents and move on to peninsula Malaysia.
The suspected terrorists then used the documents to apply for jobs in the country, even working as security guards, or to register for local mobile phone numbers.
One of the men who had been arrested by counter-terrorism operatives was identified as a Filipino named Nurhan Sahi Hakim, who got a job in the country with an identity card under the name "Yusof Attang". Using the new identity, the 33-year-old allegedly recruited another individual into the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group.
Charged over the alleged offence, he confessed to buying the card for only RM350 (S$117).
Police identified another of the men as a 22-year-old named Dahwan, who bought a forged identity card in Sabah for RM1,000 and later worked in Kuala Lumpur.
"The availability of fake Malaysian identification documents is worrying, especially when we don't know who bought them and where they are," the paper quoted the enforcement agency source as saying. "The worry is these people could make their way to sensitive areas."
South-east Asia regional director for the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals Andrin Raj said foreigners who hold fake Malaysian identification documents posed a national security threat.
"Terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, in the past had established Malaysia as the 'centre' for securing fake documentation in South-east Asia," the paper quoted him as saying.
The authorities, he said, needed to go beyond arresting terrorists and look into the supporting links that help to fund transnational criminal groups.
Last month, the authorities arrested a 52-year-old Malaysian woman in the east coast of Sabah, who was allegedly behind a fake Malaysian identity card syndicate, The Star reported.
The authorities also seized bank savings books, fake birth certificates and marriage certificates among other incriminating documents when they raided the woman's house on Jan 31.
Her arrest came after two foreigners - a seller and a buyer of fake Malaysian identity cards - were also arrested by the authorities, the National Registration Department's director-general Mohamad Razin Abdullah said.
According to Datuk Mohamad Razin, the syndicate would buy birth certificates of children who had passed away from poor families in Sabah and sell them for up to RM20,000.
In all, a total of 13 agents operating in the east coast towns of Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau in Sabah have been arrested since the beginning of the year, he said.
He added that many of those seeking the forged documents were Filipinos and Indonesians who used them to go to Kuala Lumpur to seek employment as well as Pakistanis who bought them to stay in Sabah.