Malaysians trapped in Syria seeking to return home: Police

KUALA LUMPUR • There are 65 Malaysians trapped in Syria and 39 of them have pleaded for the Malaysian authorities to bring them home, police said.

Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division chief Ayob Khan said these people have contacted their families or the police directly, asking to be brought home.

"The number is growing. The latest contact we received was during this fasting month," he told a press conference on Saturday.

He said that of the 39 Malaysians, most were women and children located in the Al-Houl refugee camp in eastern Syria.

"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.

Datuk Ayob said the police are working to bring the Malaysians home but the process will take time as it involves coordinating with various agencies.

He said those brought home will 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 clerics) will provide counselling, advice and evaluate them so that they will not get involved in terrorism again," he added. He was speaking to reporters at a breaking-of-fast event in a Kuala Lumpur hotel attended by 122 former militants and security detainees, along with their families, who have rejoined society.

"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.

Mr Ayob said there are over 500 former security detainees in Malaysia but this close relationship forged by the police with them has been successful in keeping them from going back to their old ways. "We have 239 former detainees who were linked to (terror group) Jemaah Islamiah. Thanks to our programmes and our looking out for them, only seven had gone back to extremism," he said.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysians trapped in Syria seeking to return home: Police'. Print Edition | Subscribe