Suspected terrorists in Malaysia are in possession of grenades to possibly plot more attacks across the country, said head of Malaysia’s police counter-terrorism special branch unit (E8) Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.
June’s grenade attack at the Movida nightclub on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur has altered the level of threats posed by the Islamic State (IS) terror group. For the first time, Malaysian IS members in Syria were able to remotely control their followers and successfully launched an attack back home. This sent alarm bells ringing across the country, said Ayob, who has spent almost two decades fighting extremism.
“Before this, our assessment was that they don’t have expertise to assemble IED (improvised explosive devices) because they were never trained,” Ayob told Channel NewsAsia in an exclusive interview. “But with the Movida bombing it’s clear they have the connection and ability to get weapons from neighbouring countries and that is our main concern now.”
Said Ayob, there are at least eight grenades still in the hands of terror suspects in the country, who are possibly plotting more attacks on government offices, entertainment outlets and the army and police headquarters.
“Based on intelligence reports, we believe they had 10 grenades,” said Mr Ayob. “One was used in the Movida attack, one we managed to recover in Johor. We have eight more still in the market.
“These grenades are very old – (they’re the) 1967 model – but still lethal. My advice for those who like to go clubbing is ‘stop’.”
Authorities believe the Movida attack was carried out on the instructions of 27- year-old Malaysian Mohd Wanndy Mohd Jedi, a known IS member. He was a high school dropout and came from a broken family, said Ayob.
Wanndy left for Syria in 2013 and is believed to have created multiple cells across Malaysia.
Said Ayob: “He will have one cell comprising 10 people in Cell A and maybe in Cell B there’ll be 20. There is no connection between the two. If we arrest all in Cell A, they will not know about the existence of Cell B. He is using a new ‘cut-out’ technique – it’s almost possible for you to identify them because they are all operating in different cells.”
Wandy is believed to be operating from Al Raqqah in Syria and recruiting and collecting funds from the Malaysian public.
“He is using his followers in Malaysia to collect funds,” said Ayob. “It’s not much, RM200 or RM50 from maybe 100 people, but with that money, they have managed to buy firearms like grenades.
“RETURNEES CAN BE A GOLD MINE”
Another disturbing finding, according to Ayob, is that Wanndy is not alone. There are other Malaysians in Syria, who are ordering their sympathisers to conduct lone wolf attacks.
Authorities have arrested a 17-year-old in Sandakan, Sabah who they say received such instructions.
“He had instructions asking him to carry out a lone wolf attack,” Ayob told Channel NewsAsia. “(The instructions were for him to) go and get a knife and kill a non-Muslim in Sandakan – that’s the main reason he was arrested.
“It’s not the first time. We arrested two before this. One was a 16-year-old boy we arrested in Sungai Petani who was going to slaughter a Chinese lady, the other a 17-year-old boy. He was a cell leader planning to carry out a bomb attack in Klang Valley.”
Since 2013, Malaysia has arrested nearly 240 terror suspects. Ayob said the number keeps increasing year by year.
Authorities believe more than 110 Malaysians have left for Syria since 2013 to join IS and 21 were confirmed to have been killed there. Eight have returned and are undergoing rehabilitation.
Counter-terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail said the government’s move has led some to become suicide bombers as a way out of the ordeal.
“I met some IS militants from Malaysia,” she said. “They were missing home, but could not come back so some chose the shortest path, which was to blow themselves up and become martyrs.
“It’s sad. Malaysia should seriously consider changing the narratives to counter IS. The returnees can be a gold mine, an asset to counter IS’ twisted messaging system.”
However, Ayob insisted all returnees must be detained and undergo rehabilitation as Malaysia simply does not have the resources and manpower to monitor every one of them round the clock.
Also, the module used during the Internal Security Act era against Jemaah Islamiyah and Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) may no longer be effective. Although there was a success rate of 90 per cent in terms of ISA detainees, the IS ones are different.
“In terms of ideology, they are very strong and committed. They lack expertise, but when they have the expertise, we will have a bigger problem. It’s no longer about the religion. If you’re not with them, they will kill you,” said Ayob.
It is no longer a question of whether IS will attack, but when, and Malaysia is making sure it is prepared.
Source: Channel News Asia