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Malaysian police beef up security ahead of national day

Intelligence suggests extremists may be looking to conduct terror attack

Malaysian police beef up security ahead of national day

Malaysian police during a joint police-army exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 22. In the lead up to Malaysia's national day, security forces are on high alert for a possible terrorist attack. (Photo by AFP) reporter, Kuala Lumpur

September 14, 2016

Malaysian police announced on Sept. 13 that security has been stepped up at religious sites, police stations and public spaces ahead of Malaysia Day, the 53rd birthday of the nation.

"Throughout the whole country we will step up our preparedness to face any threat, whether from the Islamic State or anyone who wants to threaten the Malaysia Day celebrations," said National Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar, quoted in the Malay Mail Online

Speaking at a press conference at the Bukit Aman Mosque, Bakar said all police would be on standby during the national celebration that falls on Sept. 16.

The assurance comes after his deputy, Noor Rashid Abdullah, warned of a possible attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on Malaysia Day following the arrest of three suspected militants on Aug. 30.

Police said the three had allegedly been planning to attack entertainment outlets, the famed Hindu temple at Batu Caves as well as police stations with grenades and firearms.

Last month, Special Branch Counter Terrorism Assistant Director Ayob Khan Maidin Pitchay said that police had identified several individuals in the country who they believed to be IS operatives and trained suicide bombers.

The New Straits Times quoted Pitchay on Sept. 7 saying that the latest intelligence suggests all were radicalized in Malaysia and sent to Syria. They were arrested trying to return home.

According to the report, Pitchay said all eight, who are now in custody, had battlefield experience and had tried to enter the country through both normal and illegal routes.

Of the eight, two had planned to attack Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital of Malaysia, while another planned to attack the Freemason Lodge in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur with improvised explosive devices.

Investigators believe they had volunteered for the alleged mission, and that one, an 18-year-old had been trained in handling weapons and explosives in Syria.

Police expect more IS members will try to return to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the coming weeks and months as the group loses ground in Syria.

A clergyman from the Malaysian state of Sabah, who did not want to be identified, said that people are calm and going about their business as usual despite the increased police presence.

"People here have seen all these things before for so many years so they are not easily jumpy," said the pastor.

The heightened alert comes on the heels of a kidnapping of three Filipino fishermen off the coast of Sabah on Sept. 10. Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines-based Islamic State-affiliated terrorist organization are the prime suspect of the abduction.

Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for detonating a bomb in Davao that killed 14 people and wounded about 70 on Sept. 2. They promised more attacks if the Philippine army did not stop its actions against them. 

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