Malaysia nabs five suspected militants

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar.
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar. PHOTO: THE STAR

Defence minister reveals several Malaysian leaders put on ISIS hit list since March

Malaysian police have nabbed five suspected militants in their latest raids, even as Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned that the threat of terrorism is spreading globally and no country is immune.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement that the police's Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division arrested the five suspects last week in a crackdown in Johor and Selangor.

The suspects - four Malaysians and one Indonesian - are between 22 and 40 years old.

Three suspects are believed to be followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and two from a new militant group, the Imam Mahdi movement.

The 22-year-old worked as a supervisor at a Health Ministry canteen in Selangor and was planning to travel to Syria before being detained with his Indonesian co-worker.

Another detainee was a former senior official at a plantation company who was also prevented from entering Syria in Turkey.

Two more suspects, aged 28 and 30, were involved in the Imam Mahdi movement, which was planning several attacks in the Klang Valley.

The 30-year-old suspect, who worked as a soya bean drink seller, was previously a member of a Jemaah Islamiah terror cell, and had been arrested in 2003 in Pakistan.

Head of the counter terrorism division, Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, told The Straits Times that the Imam Mahdi movement "is a new group that police are trying to cripple quickly".

Police are still tracing the rest of the members, who primarily use Facebook to interact.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told The Straits Times that militant activities are morphing into many small groups and picking up on the ISIS ideology.

Malaysia has detained at least 130 people in recent years linked to militants in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, the defence minister also told reporters that several Malaysian leaders, including himself, had been put on an ISIS hit list since March.

Mr Hishammuddin yesterday said he was revealing the information only now because the Paris violence is a cause for concern.

"If we do not deal appropriately with the hot-spots in this region, such as southern Thailand and southern Philippines, where people move freely (across the borders)... don't think the same fate will not befall us," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysia nabs five suspected militants'. Print Edition | Subscribe