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Malaysian leaders face ‘clear and present’ terror threat

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian police remain on high alert for possible terror plots targeting the country’s top leaders, its police chief said yesterday.

A Malaysian man arrested on suspicion of having links with militant group Islamic State. The authorities have given their assurance that the police will take no chances when fighting terrorism. Photo: Royal Malaysia Police

A Malaysian man arrested on suspicion of having links with militant group Islamic State. The authorities have given their assurance that the police will take no chances when fighting terrorism. Photo: Royal Malaysia Police

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian police remain on high alert for possible terror plots targeting the country’s top leaders, its police chief said yesterday.

Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said terror threats continue to be a clear and present danger in the country, and the police will remain on top of the situation.

“There are still threats against our leaders, but we are closely monitoring the situation ... If there is a threat, of course we should be worried. But we are addressing it,” he said at a press conference.

In November 2015, several Malaysian leaders were reportedly on the target list of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, based on intelligence reports received by the country’s national security bodies. Among those targeted were Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and senior members of the Cabinet. Malaysia’s counterterrorism division principal assistant director Ayob Khan also received a death threat from IS.

Mr Khalid yesterday gave his assurance that the police, especially the Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division, will not be taking chances when it comes to fighting terrorism.

“What’s happening in other countries — we don’t want that to happen in Malaysia. We will always take proactive measures when it comes to fighting Daesh (IS),” he added.

Malaysia arrested more than 250 people between 2013 and 2016 for militant activities linked to IS.

The Muslim-majority country has been on high alert since IS-linked militants carried out an armed attack in Jakarta on Jan 14 last year. Malaysia itself has been identified by IS militants as a high-priority target.

Despite success in foiling several potential lone-wolf attacks, militants managed to stage a grenade attack on a nightclub in Selangor on June 28 last year which injured eight people.

Meanwhile, authorities said yesterday that militants en route to the Southern Philippines are believed to be planning to use Tawau town in Sabah as their transit point, following the arrest of a Filipino man, two Bangladeshi men and a local woman in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur recently.

“Tawau is strategically located between the three countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines), and is rife with economic activities. The militants were planning to exploit this situation and blend in with the locals to mask their activities,” Mr Khalid said.

“Police, via the counterterrorism division, have been alerted to this plan and will continue to monitor their movements in Tawau,” he said, adding that authorities are also working with their counterparts in the Philippines to track down a former Universiti Malaysia lecturer — the head of an IS cell behind the plan to use Tawau as a transit point.

“The security agencies are monitoring his movements. Currently, we can’t take action on him because he is hiding somewhere in the Southern Philippines. We will wait for the right time to take him,” Mr Khalid said.

But he downplayed concerns that Sabah may have become a transit location for IS militants.

“Sabah is not a transit location. No. They (militants) gather at the Southern Philippines (through Sabah),” said Mr Khalid.

“I do not believe Sabah is a transit point, they only pass through the state.” AGENCIES

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