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KL radicals ‘target S’pore as part of Caliphate’

KUALA LUMPUR — A group of radicals planning to attack several targets in Malaysia had their sights set on a wider campaign — the creation of an Islamic Caliphate that includes Singapore, said a top Malaysian counter-terrorism official yesterday.

KL radicals ‘target S’pore as part of Caliphate’

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters near the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq on Monday. Kurdish and Iraqi forces took control of the main dam compound on Monday, but fighting continued at the site of a separate dam, officials said.

KUALA LUMPUR — A group of radicals planning to attack several targets in Malaysia had their sights set on a wider campaign — the creation of an Islamic Caliphate that includes Singapore, said a top Malaysian counter-terrorism official yesterday.

The 19 suspected militants arrested from April to June had planned to travel to Syria to learn from the radical Islamic State (IS) group, Mr Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, told AFP.

Mr Ayob said the group members — all of whom are Malaysians aged between 20 and 50 — had started to raise money for their travel, including through Facebook. Some had been arrested at airports on their way to Turkey and Syria.

The group had planned “a campaign of violence and armed struggle, and to die as martyrs”, said Mr Ayob. Seven members have been charged with offences such as promoting terrorism and possessing home-made rifles.

They were formulating plans to bomb pubs, discos and a Malaysian brewery of Danish beer producer Carlsberg. These were targeted reportedly because Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol.

The group, which includes professionals and two housewives, also planned to create networks with regional and global cells.

Their vision was the setting up of an Islamic Caliphate in the region comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, said Mr Ayob.

He stressed that the members were in the early stages of discussing plans and were not in possession of heavy weapons or bomb-making knowledge. But the police believe there could be other group members still at large in the country.

While the Malaysian authorities had announced some of the arrests before, they had previously not provided details on the group’s suspected plans and ideology.

Last week, Mr Ayob told The Malaysian Insider that between 20 and 30 Malaysians had gone to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State, though the figure could be “a lot higher”.

He also said that in addition to factory worker Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who blew himself up in a suicide mission in Iraq in May, another Malaysian is believed to have also done so.

“I cannot reveal the details yet as we are trying to confirm the identity of a second Malaysian who is believed to have perished in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East,” Mr Ayob said.

Islamic State is known for its extreme interpretation of the Islamic faith. Proclaiming itself as a Caliphate with religious authority over all Muslims in the world, it aspires to bring much of the Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its direct political control.

It is believed to have thousands of Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, including Westerners.

The jihadist group has seized large parts of Iraq, drawing the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011.

Islamic State has now warned the United States in a video clip that it will attack Americans “in any place” if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American beheaded during the US occupation of Iraq as well as victims of snipers, featured a statement that said in English: “We will drown all of you in blood.”

Unlike Al Qaeda, Islamic State has so far focused on seizing land in Iraq and Syria for its self-proclaimed Caliphate, rather than attacking Western targets. In recent months, the Malaysian authorities have warned that its nationals fighting in Syria and Iraq adhere to extremism and pose a threat to national security.

“The arrests of Malaysians who are planning to join militant groups abroad ... are not because we are against Islam, as alleged by certain quarters,” Mr Ayob said in an interview in June.

“It is because, from information gathered, the police have found that these people believe in toppling governments they deemed secular and un-Islamic through armed revolution.

“They also believe the Malaysian government is ‘taghut’ (evil).”

In June, the Malaysian police also arrested three men in Sandakan, Sabah, who were allegedly Islamist militants. One of the suspects had received training by the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines, while another was a Royal Malaysian Navy personnel. The three suspects had links with 11 people, who had been arrested by the police in April for their alleged involvement in militant activities. AGENCIES

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