Malaysian militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were planning to overthrow the government in Putrajaya and attack several pubs, discos and even the Carlsberg brewery in Shah Alam, Selangor, according to the police.
Federal Special Branch principal assistant director Ayob Khan Pitchay Mydin told The Sunday Times yesterday that out of 19 suspects arrested in a clampdown earlier this year, seven are set to face trial in October for security offences.
“They have the same ideology as groups like Al-Qaeda, where the main objective is to topple the government and install an Islamic state,” said Datuk Ayob, who heads the force’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The suspects had raised several thousand ringgit for their efforts which were nipped in the bud when the police dismantled the group between April and June.
“Their plans were not that advanced. They were only discussing (how) to attack but had not obtained material to make bombs,” he said, adding that the police had seized homemade rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
Mr Ayob said the group had dispersed after their leader and second-in-command were arrested between April and May. The police are searching for the remaining members.
“Their plan is to go to Syria for training. More than 20 are already there but we have identified them and will nab them if they return,” he said.
ISIS is a splinter group of Al-Qaeda that wants to set up an Islamic caliphate encompassing both Iraq and Syria.
Malaysian factory worker Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki died as an ISIS suicide bomber in May, sparking alarm over renewed Islamic extremism in Malaysia.
Muslim-majority Malaysia practises moderate Islam and has not been the target of any notable terror attacks in recent years.
But it has been home to several key figures in militant Islamic groups, such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has said that a regional ring he dubbed the “Nusantara network” might be recruiting citizens of Malaysia, Indonesia, southern Thailand and the Philippines to join militant activities abroad.
In June, the police arrested three alleged militants in Sandakan, Sabah. One of them had allegedly received training from Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, while another was a Royal Malaysian Navy personnel. The latter was released last month and has since returned to full service.
In late June, the United Nations revealed that 15 Malaysians were allegedly killed in Syria after joining terrorist and jihadist activities with ISIS.
ISIS fighters have engaged in a bloody war across Iraq, overrunning large areas of the country and conquering a substantial part of the north.
Iraq’s Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi said last week that Iraqis must unite to face terrorism, promising that his government will fight to “salvage the country from security, political and economic problems”.