KUALA LUMPUR - Police have arrested 14 suspected militants, including three key figures believed to be behind the recruitment of Malaysians into the Islamic State (IS). The youngest is a 14-year-old boy.
The three are a 37-year-old Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry senior assistant director; an unemployed man, also 37, who owns a Facebook account used to promote IS and recruit militants; and a 34-year-old unemployed man who had returned from Syria where he fought for the extremist group.
Twelve of the suspects were detained at a restaurant in Shah Alam on Monday while another was caught in a house in Damansara the next day and one more by the roadside in Damansara yesterday.
The oldest detained is 48 and among them is a graphic designer, chef, an employee of an events company and a businessman.
With these arrests, the total number of suspected militants rounded up by police so far is 37 but the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division is still hunting for more such individuals.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the senior assistant director was the highest profile member of the militant group.
"We believe he was funding the militants' trips to Syria. The man, an engineer by profession, is also suspected of having links to three wanted militants who are hiding with the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines," he said.
Two of the men in hiding are lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad (also known as Abu Handzalah) and sundry shop owner Mohd Najib Husen, both 36.
They are believed to be leaders of a local militant group that trains members to fight in Syria and Iraq.
The third man is former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, 39, also known as Abu Nur.
According to sources, the senior assistant director was in the southern Philippines recently.
"Police started their surveillance on him early this year. He is believed to be the main financer of the militant activities, including paying for the journeys to Syria.
"He tried to mask his activities but the police managed to track him," one source said.
Khalid said the suspect with the Facebook account was promoting, recruiting and uploading IS propaganda.
"He is also active in recruiting female university students to be sent to Syria," he said.