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ISIS attack on Malaysia imminent, says top counterterror official

KUALA LUMPUR — Evidence gathered so far of Malaysian involvement in the Islamic State has led the police to warn that attacks by the group on Malaysian soil are imminent, the country’s counterterrorism director, Mr Ayub Khan Mydin, said yesterday.

A foreign worker sweeps a car park in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, January 26, 2015. According to local media, there are an estimated 6.7 million foreign workers in Malaysia but only 2.1 million have valid work permits. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

A foreign worker sweeps a car park in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, January 26, 2015. According to local media, there are an estimated 6.7 million foreign workers in Malaysia but only 2.1 million have valid work permits. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (MALAYSIA - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

KUALA LUMPUR — Evidence gathered so far of Malaysian involvement in the Islamic State has led the police to warn that attacks by the group on Malaysian soil are imminent, the country’s counterterrorism director, Mr Ayub Khan Mydin, said yesterday.

In a special briefing on the threats of Islamic extremism in the country, Mr Ayub said police intelligence has indicated that it was only a matter of time before an attack is launched.

“It is not a matter of if we will be attacked, but when,” he told the executive briefing.

Mr Ayub said Malaysian Islamic State members have made direct threats to attack Malaysia, including plans to bomb entertainment spots as part of a plan by the group, also known as ISIS, to “punish” Malaysia for being an “apostate” country.

“They view us as apostates. First they deem us bidaah (deviant), then they say we are apostates and then next thing is to say our blood is halal,” Mr Ayub said.

The warnings come only days after Malaysia began debating new anti-terror laws in Parliament that would empower the government to detain, impose harsher penalties on, and seize travel documents of suspects amid the rising threat of the Islamic State.

The Malaysian government said late last year that it would introduce new measures after arresting dozens of Malaysians suspected of supporting the Islamic State.

A group of radicals arrested last year were planning to attack several targets in Malaysia and had their sights set on a wider campaign — the creation of an Islamic Caliphate that includes Singapore.

In Singapore, Mr Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told TODAY that the assessment by Mr Ayub “is accurate”.

“ISIS cells in South-east Asia are planning to mount attacks in the region,” said Prof Gunaratna, using the acronym for Islamic State.

“Thus, there should be a concerted effort to dismantle both the platforms, groups disseminating ISIS ideology, and those operationally and ideologically linked to ISIS,” he said.

To date, there are an estimated 63 Malaysians in Syria fighting with Islamic State.

As many as 240 Malaysians have been identified and were arrested from 2001 to 2009 for links to Jemaah Islamiyah, a group with an extensive network in Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines that has professed support for Islamic State.

Mr Ayub said Malaysians are drawn to the group’s ideology that those who fight with them are guaranteed a place in “jannah” (heaven) and that those who go against them are considered as apostates that Islam ordains to kill.

He added that this has driven them to believe that their own country is a part of an international conspiracy by infidels bent on preventing the rise of the Islamic caliphate as supposedly promised by Prophet Muhammad.

“They really view us as infidels. And they believe that as infidels, we deserved to be sembelih (decapitated),” he said, pointing to one Facebook threat made by a Malaysian Islamic State member who said that he would not hesitate to murder his own family members if they too supported the government’s fight against IS.

In Singapore, Home Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said last month that the growing threat posed by Islamic State was real and was a threat to South-east Asia.

“Self-radicalised individuals may also be influenced by (Islamic State) to carry out attacks in their home countries. Such attacks are often opportunistic, and therefore, difficult to detect and prevent”, he said.

To combat this threat, he said Singapore’s borders, infrastructure and intelligence capabilities will be strengthened and the Government will work with international partners to identify and pre-empt terrorist threats. AGENCIES

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