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40 Malaysian jihadists, their families lost in Syria, says anti-terror expert

KUALA LUMPUR — Forty Malaysians are held in prisons and humanitarian camps across Syria and the Malaysian authorities are unable to trace them and begin the process of repatriation, said counter-terrorism analyst Dr Ahmad el-Muhammady.

40 Malaysian jihadists, their families lost in Syria, says anti-terror expert

The Malaysian jihadists who fought for terrorist group Islamic State (IS) are jailed while their families are kept at humanitarian camps in the all across Syria.

KUALA LUMPUR — Forty Malaysians are held in prisons and humanitarian camps across Syria and the Malaysian authorities are unable to trace them and begin the process of repatriation, said counter-terrorism analyst Dr Ahmad el-Muhammady.

The Malaysian jihadists who fought for terrorist group Islamic State (IS) are jailed while their families are kept at humanitarian camps in the all across Syria.

Dr Ahmad told The Malaysian Insight it is difficult to bring them home as it is hard for Malaysian authorities to trace their whereabouts.

“It is a challenge because the men are held in various prisons, scattered around across Syria and near the border in Turkey. Women and children are located in camps so the process to reunite the families is a huge task.

“There is no effective authority on the ground to run the process," he said.

“There is a lot of bureaucracy, the situation is chaotic and they do not have a system to trace who is where. There is not even a name list we can refer to,” said the senior lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia.

Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism division has disclosed that there are 40 Malaysians including women and children in Syria.

The men are members of the IS, which was defeated by US-backed Syrian forces in March. Although their “caliphate” has been officially crushed and their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently killed, there remains a threat of the terrorists regrouping and resurging in the war-ravaged country.

Dr Ahmad said the withdrawal of troops from the United States has made matters worse.

“There is a risk now for security teams in Syria following the withdrawal of the United States army. There is no effective force on the ground and the men held in prisons can easily fall into the hands of other groups,” he added.

Dr Ahmad said intelligence reports revealed that a Malaysian jihadist went missing after he tried to surrender to the authorities. He said there are no more Malaysian fighters in Syria.

“They are either dead or arrested. The last ones were the former musician for a pop-rock group and another man known as Rafi Udin,” Ahmad said.

It was reported last month that former drummer of the band Ukays, Akel Zainal, who was a militant leader, was killed along with his wife and children in a Russian air strike in Syria in March.

It is learnt that Akel, whose real name is Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, and his family were killed at their home in Baghouz.

Another senior Malaysian militant Mohd Rafi Udin, also known as Abu Awn Al-Malizi, was killed in an Russian air strike in January.

In October 2018, Malaysian authorities brought home a Malaysian woman and her two children.

The woman, who wished to be known as Aisyah, was keen to return after her Malaysian husband died while fighting with the IS in February the same year.

Top jihadist recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi was killed in 2017.

According to reports, Wanndy, who was also known as Abu Hamzah Al-Fateh, was believed to be the mastermind of several attacks in the country, including at an entertainment centre in Puchong, Selangor in 2016. THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

Related topics

Islamic State Malaysia terrorism

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