Malaysian police arrest 16 terror suspects in nationwide crackdown

Inspector General of Police said the suspects were arrested in counter-terrorism operations across 5 states in Malaysia.

ISIS militant threatens to kill Malaysia's top anti-terror cop, Ayob Khan
Picture for representation Reuters

Sixteen people, including a North African man, who were alleged to have militant links, were arrested by the Malaysian police after a two-week operation across five states in the country.

Police said the arrested citizen of a North African country had links with Jahbat Al Nusra, an Islamic group in Syria.

Among the arrested men, 14 were reportedly involved in a cell headed by Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi, the suspected mastermind behind the Movida nightspot bomb blast in Puchong.

The grenade attack on a bar in the outskirts of Kuala Lampur in June is considered the first successful terror attack attempt by the Jahbat Al Nusra group in Malaysia.

According to the Straits Times, Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the suspects were arrested following counter-terrorism operations in Selangor, Kelantan, Perak, Kedah, Penang and Sabah between 21 September and 6 October. All the detainees are aged between 20 and 38, he added.

The police reported that one of the suspects, a Malaysian student, was arrested on his arrival at Kuala Lumpur international airport. It is alleged that he had travelled to Istanbul with an intention to enter Syria, but was nabbed by Turkish police after they got a tip-off from Malaysian police.

The police officer also said that, other than the student, businessmen, a school counsellor and a bank employee were among those detained.

Malaysia had beefed up its security after Islamic State-linked militants carried out an armed attack in January, in neighbouring Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta. A series of explosions and gunfire near the Sarinah shopping mall rocked the capital city on 14 January.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had described the attacks as an "act of terror". "We all are grieving for the fallen victims of this incident, but we also condemn the act that has disturbed the security and peace and spread terror among our people," he said.

On 19 January, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered an increased security measures across the country. "We want the people to feel safe and reassured. We want the people to continue their business as normal and not to be overly concerned as the authorities have the situation under control," Najib said, according to The Star.