Malaysian police foil terror plot, hunt for more members of cell

Militants linked to so-called Islamic State were planning to attack Christian churches, Buddhist and Hindu temples
Malaysian police foil terror plot, hunt for more members of cell

A file image of members of Malaysia's special operations force and elite high-profile counter-terrorism tactical unit in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 31, 2017. (Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP) reporter, Kuala Lumpur
May 14, 2019
Malaysian police say they have thwarted a series of terror attacks and assassinations planned to take place during the on-going Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The targets included Christian churches and Buddhist and Hindu temples in the multi-ethnic, Muslim-majority nation.

With four members of the terror cell in custody, the hunt is on for at least three more members as investigations continue.

Police say the terrorism plot was uncovered with the arrest of four men last week, one of them registered as a refugee, in Kuala Lumpur and in Trengganu, a state on the east coast of the peninsula.

“Our counter terrorism unit found a ‘wolf pack’ allied with IS (Islamic State) who were planning to assassinate high profile targets and launch simultaneous terror attacks on entertainment outlets as well as Hindu and Buddhist temples and Christian churches,” Malaysia’s chief of police Abdul Hamid Bador told the media on May 13.

At least three more members of the cell remain at large and a nationwide search is on-going, and police are urging anyone who know of their whereabouts to inform them.

The police chief named the suspects as Syazani Mahzan, 35 and Muhammad Nuurul Amin Azizan, 27, and said they were last seen in the northern state of Kedah. Both are suspected to be linked to the Islamic State terror group and are believed to be planning terror attacks on holy places.

Another member of the cell whose identity is known is an Indonesian named Fatir Tir. He is believed to be working as a laborer and was last spotted in Banting, a small agricultural town in the state of Selangor.

The police are trying to find the IS member who is most likely to have been in contact with the suspects.

“We’re trying to locate the contact person these three had in Syria. We know he’s called either Akhil Sham or Akhil Zainal,” said the police chief.

The four arrested claimed that they were planning to avenge the death of a Muslim firefighter who died during clashes at a Hindu temple last year.

“All four suspects admitted to planning attacks during the first week of Ramadan to exact revenge for the death of firemen Muhammad Adib who died during the Seafield temple riots,” said Abdul Hamid.

“They planned to kill those they felt offended Islam or didn’t defend Muslim rights,” he said.

Investigators believe the leader of the terror cell is a 34-year-old laborer. He was the first to be picked up in Kuala Berang, Terengganu on May 5, the start of Ramadan.

The subsequent arrests were made on May 7.

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Two Rohingyas aged 20 and 25, one with a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) tag, were picked up in Kuala Lumpur while the fourth man, a migrant worker from Indonesia, was apprehended in Subang Jaya.

Investigations revealed that one of the Rohingya arrested is a member of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group that emerged in Myanmar in 2016 at the height of inter-ethnic conflict in that country.

“He was planning to attack the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur and then perform Jihad in Rakhine,” said Abdul Hamid.

“The Indonesian, aged 49, was planning to perform Jihad in Syria while the other Rohingya laborer admitted to being part of IS.”

At the press briefing, police showed a semi-automatic pistol, ammunition and six pipe bombs measuring 18cm long that they say were discovered during searches made during the arrests.

The four men in custody are being investigated under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

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