Two Malaysians who had signed up as suicide bombers with the Islamic State in Syria, blew themselves up last week in clashes with Syrian combat troops.
The duo, in their early 20s, had joined the ranks of IS-enlisted bombers, who the global terror group is increasingly turning to as it suffered significant losses in fighters and territories in recent weeks.
The attacks, carried out separately by Hasan Zakaria, 25, and the other Malaysian, known only by his nom de guerre, “Abu Salim”, had not been as widely publicised as the devastating bombing at a wedding in southeastern Turkey last month, which claimed more than 50 lives.
The number of casualties following the duo’s suicide attacks has not been established.
It is understood that the duo, along with another Malaysian IS member, Muhammad Izzul Imam Mohd Isa, who was killed after he was hit by a missile fired by the Syrian Air Force on Aug 25, had been placed first in line of the IS offensive to defend Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.
The New Straits Times learnt that Hasan, who had been strapped with a bomb belt, detonated the explosive device during what was supposed to be a close quarters battle with the Syrian army in northern Raqqa last Tuesday.
The Terengganu-born Hasan was said to have left the country on Sept 3, 2014, for Turkey via Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Abu Salim’s mission was set two days earlier, also in northern Raqqa.
Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, told the NST that based on intelligence received, he could confirm the deaths of the three Malaysians.
He said Izzul and Hasan had been on police’s radar since 2014.
The Selangor-born Izzul, 21, had left for Syria on March 5, 2014, with Muhammad Syafiq Mohd Azmi, Siti Noor Mohd Amin and Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who died in a suicide attack in Al-Anbar, Iraq, on May 26 in the same year. “Izzul and Hasan left for Syria with the help of Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, also known as ‘Akel Zainal’ (among the first Malaysians to set foot in Syria to fight the Bashar al-Assad regime).
“We have yet to identify Abu Salim’s real identity… but, we believe that he had been in contact with Wanndy,” said Ayob, referring to Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, who is among the most-wanted men on the global terror watch list.
Wanndy also goes by the assumed name “Abu Hamzah al-Fateh”.
In a Facebook post, he celebrated the deaths of the three, saying they had been martyred. Ayob said Wanndy, the de facto leader for Malaysians in Syria, had been leveraging news of the trio’s deaths to garner support in the country and lure more people to take up the IS cause in Malaysia.
“Currently, Wanndy is the only Malaysian IS leader actively recruiting locals to join the group.
“Other Malaysian IS members are more focused on the physical war… (but) Wanndy seems to be spending most of his time surfing the Internet and updating his Facebook (page).”
From intelligence gleaned, Ayob suggested that some 90 Malaysians had gone to Syria and Iraq. Police believe that as of yesterday, there are 58 of them there. Eight have returned to the country and are in police custody.
Thirty-two of those in Syria and Iraq are men, while 10 are women.
They brought with them 16 children, six of whom are girls. A total of 24 Malaysian IS members have died in the two countries.
The deaths of Hasan and Abu Salim bring the tally of Malaysian suicide bombers who had served IS to nine.
The NST, in January, reported that two Malaysian IS suicide bombers had been killed in separate attacks in Syria and Iraq after leaders in the terror group moved them up the ranks, from doing menial tasks to being actively engaged in fighting on the front lines, including as members of the group’s suicide squad.
Mohd Amirul Ahmad Rahim, 26, detonated explosives strapped to his body and in his car during clashes in Raqqa on Dec 29 last year, killing 21 people. On Jan 3, Mohamad Syazwan Mohd Salim, 31, along with seven other suicide bombers, blew themselves up in Tikrit, Iraq, killing 12 policemen.
Source: New Straits Times