Islamic State suspects arrested in Malaysia

  • 24/01/2017
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur (Getty)

Malaysian police have arrested four people, among them three foreigners, with links to an Islamic State cell based out of the southern Philippines.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has been on high alert since an attack last January by Islamic State-linked militants in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia.

The cell, operating out of the province of Mindanao, was led by a former university lecturer, Mahmud Ahmad, who is known to be a Malaysian member of Islamic State, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.

The cell had planned to use the east Malaysian state of Sabah as a transit point for South Asian and Southeast Asian militant recruits looking to join Islamic State in the Philippines.

Mr Khalid said one of the arrested suspects, a Filipino man, had been instructed to recruit new followers from Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, and arrange for their travel to Mindanao.

The suspect, a watch-seller, was arrested in Sabah along with a Malaysian woman who was planning to marry and travel with him to the Philippines.

Police also arrested two Bangladeshi men in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, who had allegedly been recruited by the Philippine suspect.

"The two are suspected of having links with Daesh groups in Bangladesh," Mr Khalid said, using another name for Islamic State.

Mr Khalid said Mahmud's cell had joined up with the Philippine militant group, Abu Sayyaf, and pledged its allegiance to the group's leader and the country's most-wanted man, Isnilon Hapilon.