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Islamic State worries Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (UCAN): Malaysia’s battle against the spread of the influence of Islamic State ideology has revealed that despite a high-profile crackdown, new recruits are plentiful.

On the weekend of May 21 and 22, police detained 14 more individuals believed to be linked to the group that calls itself the Islamic State. 

The new arrests came after 15 people, who police say planned to launch attacks in Malaysia, were arrested in March.

At least 160 people have been arrested since January 2015 on suspicion of being involved in militant activities.

The deputy police chief, Noor Rashid Ibrahim, said on May 21 that the latest suspects were picked up in an anti-terror sting during an ongoing operation to clamp down on the spread of militancy.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic Herald in Malaysia, said that the increasing number of arrests of people allegedly linked to the militant group is both calming and worrying.

“(It shows) the government is doing its best to ensure that budding terrorists are being checked and taken in for questioning,” he commented.

“They are helping them realise that the journey they are taking is not the best for their own good… for their welfare and the country’s,” he added.

Father Lawrence said the fact that such ideology is spreading, although not yet believed to be extensive, is a cause for concern.

“Yes it is mushrooming here and there, but while it is not pervasive, it is certainly worrying… not only for Christians, but for all, since destroying any person is worrying for us as Christians,” he added.

Citing the Easter Sunday bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, that killed at least 72 people, he said, “Destroying anyone is tantamount to killing… killing violates the sacredness of life and goes against the law of God. In that sense it is worrying.”

The operation at the weekend was conducted by counter-terrorism officials in Kuala Lumpur and five states on the peninsula; Selangor, Perak, Kedah, Perlis and Johor.

Noor Rashid described the suspects as local residents between 22- and 49-years-old.

“Eight suspects detained in Kuala Lumpur, Perlis, Perak, Selangor and Johor were suspected of involvement in channelling funds to Islamic State militants and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the southern Philippines,” he said in a May 21 statement.

Police believe all were in contact with a Malaysian Islamic State agent, who is in Syria and using networks to tap sympathisers in Malaysia.

One of the suspects was described as a relative of the man suspected of soliciting funds for militants in Syria.

Two suspects are alleged to have used their Facebook accounts to promote militant ideology, while two others allegedly planned to enter Syria to join the Islamic State in July and August last year.

The lone female suspect detained in the operation was working as a waiter in the federal capital and was suspected of planning to join them in Syria.

Another suspect allegedly used his home as a meeting place to promote the cause.

Malaysia has been on high alert since Islamic State-linked militants carried out a deadly attack in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on January 14.

In March, the Malaysian home minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, said police had foiled a plot to kidnap the prime minister, Najib Razak, and other senior ministers last year.

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