‘IS suicide squad in our midst’

KUALA LUMPUR: Intelligence gleaned by counterterrorism operatives in the country suggest that Malaysia now has, in its midst, suicide bombers ready to die for the Islamic State (IS) group.

Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division (SB-CTD) principal assistant director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said evidence strongly pointed to several individuals pursuing the IS cause here.

Police, he said, had been working on this latest piece of intel and were on their case.

He said the individuals, who considered themselves “IS operatives”, were believed to have been trained for their missions.

The aspiring suicide bombers, he said, were as radicalised as the eight IS Malaysians who had returned from Syria to launch terror attacks for IS here.

Ayob said as the terror group continues to be pounded by security forces in Syria, scaling down their military might, more fighters would begin returning home.

His projection was supported by several international security experts, who are here for the two-day International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals Asean Security Symposium ending tomorrow to discuss IS threats in the region.

The experts, including IACSP Southeast Asia regional director Andrin Raj, unanimously assessed that the “boomerang effect”, in which foreign IS terrorists in Syria return to their home ground to pursue the group’s expansion plans, was fast taking place.

Ayob said this concern was compounded by the stage-by-stage release of scores of convicted Indonesian terrorists from the notorious Jemaah Islamiyah group.

“We are extremely concerned… that these detainees possess the expertise to launch large-scale attacks, (and) have established networking groups at the regional and global stage, driven by respected leaders,” Ayob said.

“This will be a boon for IS elements, whether in Malaysia or Indonesia, which have limited capability to produce large-scale IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and restricted working relationships with foreign militant organisations.”

Ayob said a third cause for concern was the call made by Syria-based Indonesian militant leader Bahrun Shah to IS sympathisers in the region.

The Indonesian had asked followers to attack Malaysia, as it supposedly promotes secularism.

The Khatibah Nusantara leader has been in contact with Malaysian IS members, encouraging them to target popular Western outlets, the government and security forces.

“He has the funds, and this is dangerous as it means that he is able to initiate large-scale attacks.

“If you look at previous cases, such as the Bali bombings, al-Qaeda sent money to Malaysia from Afg-hanistan to finance it. If funds start to come from Syria, in the near future, they will launch a big attack,” he said, adding that police were working round-the-clock to cut their funds.

Ayob told the New Straits Times on the sidelines of the IACSP Asean Security Symposium that the eight in police custody remained radicalised.

He said one of them had returned with a gunshot wound.

He said the eight, all with battlefield experience, had tried to enter the country through normal and illegal routes, before being arrested by the police, who had monitored their movements.

He said two of them had planned to attack Putrajaya while another had planned to attack the Freemason Lodge in Bukit Jalil with IEDs.

One of them, an 18-year-old, had spent hundreds of hours fighting the Syrian regime.

Since 2013, counterterrorism operatives had foiled 13 terror attack attempts, seven of which were already at phase two, in which they were caught with chemicals, ammunition and other bomb-making materials.

Seven of the plots were supposed to be carried out remotely from Syria based mostly on the instructions of Syrian-based Malaysian IS de facto leader Muhammad Wanndy Muhammed Jedi.

Among their other targets were entertainment outlets, vice dens, alcohol-producing factories, government premises, security installations and Western-type premises.

Ayob said Malaysia had also seen three lone-wolf attacks, two of them involving teenagers.

“The first attack involved a 16-year-old who was instructed to behead a non-Muslim with a knife.

“The second lone-wolf suspect intended to embark on a stabbing spree at a train station, while the third suspect planned to execute police officers in East Malaysia.”

Ayob said although IS was affected by the death of two of its top leaders and were experiencing a drop in funding, new groups subscribing to the Salafi Jihadi ideology would emerge.

“This being the case, law enforcement agencies and religious experts must adopt a comprehensive, holistic and integrated approach to explain to the global Muslim community the dangers of its deviant ideology.

“This ideology, which gave birth to takfiris (Sunni Muslims who accuse other Muslims or an adherent of another Abrahamic faith of apostasy), has been embraced by terrorist groups after al-Qaeda’s influence began to wane.

“Terrorist groups upholding the Salafi Jihadi ideology regard certain Islamic nations and Muslim communities as their primary targets and accuse them of apostasy,” Ayob said, adding that the group remained determined to overthrow secular Islamic nations through its members’ and sympathisers’ support.

“Tackle the Salafi Jihadi ideology and you not only win the battle against violent extremism but you will triumph in the war on terrorism. There are no two ways about it.”

The IACSP, at its event yesterday, also honoured Bukit Aman’s counterterrorism division and the Armed Forces with special awards for the agencies’ service during the 2013 Lahad Datu incursion.

Those honoured were Superintendent Ibrahim Lebar and Private Ahmad Hurrairah Ismail, who died defending the nation from the self-proclaimed Sulu sultanate attackers. – NST

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