Malaysia arrests airport security guard for Isis links

'He had full access to... aircraft, including the cockpit, to carry out inspections'

Malaysia arrests 7 suspects
A soldier patrols outside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, January 25, 2016. Reuters

A Malaysian airport security guard who had full access to passenger aircraft was arrested last month for alleged links to the Islamic terror outfit Isis in what authorities have called a 'classic case of insider threat.' Malaysia's counter-terrorism establishment has said the incident has once again highlighted the risk of someone with inside access to entire airport and aircraft turning radical, Channel News Asia reported.

The suspect was a security guard at Kuantan airport responsible for Malaysia Airlines aircraft safety. This was the second time in two years that Malaysian police arrested airport security staff for terrorism related charges. "The suspect's scope of duties... for the airline's safety operations was anti-pilferage, anti-sabotage, anti-hijacking," Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, a senior officer with the Royal Malaysia Police counter-terrorism unit, told CNA.

"He had full access to... Malaysia Airlines aircraft, including the cockpit, to carry out inspections ... "It is dangerous to have someone turn radical who has access to an entire airport and its aircraft ... You must remember that IS had called for those who are not able to travel to Syria to conduct attacks in their home countries," Ayob said.

The officials cited the bombing of the Russian Metrojet flight in October 2015, which crashed over Sinai in Egypt killing 224 people. Investigations revealed later that an aircraft mechanic had planted a bomb on the doomed plane.

The suspected Isis operative arrested in Kuantan airport was not actively planning any terror attack, the officers said, adding that he was, however, trying to move to Syria with an intention to join the Sunni Islamic terror wing.

Malaysia Airlines later clarified that its recruits undergo stringent background checks security screening, the report said. "We (also) require staff and vendors to attend security awareness briefings which is part of the Malaysia Airlines' security programme, which includes subjects on... security processes and insider threats," the airlines said.

Malaysia made hundreds of arrests last year in terror crackdowns following a deadly blast carried out by Isis-linked outfits in neighbouring Indonesia in January 2016 that pulverised the region's sense of security. Countries in the Southeast Asian region have been on alert after the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, started recruiting fighters from Asian countries even as they came under increased pressure in Iraq and Syria.