KUALA LUMPUR - One was a militant who just joined the Islamic State terror group after attending sekolah pondok, or traditional religious school, in Kelantan.
The other was a militant who had been fighting with IS in Syria but was wounded and had to come back here, where he made a living from conning money from IS sympathisers on Facebook.
Together, they were planning to get weapons and launch attacks on VIPs, interests of western nations and entertainment outlets in the Klang Valley.
Their terror plans were foiled when the men, aged 28 and 31, were arrested by police on July 2 and 7 respectively.
The younger man attended sekolah pondok and returned to Kuala Lumpur sometime last year.
He had previously quit his job as an events manager at an automotive company where he had worked for about seven years.
While at the school, the man met Ahmad Effendi Manaf, a Malaysian suicide bomber who died in Homs, Syria, last November, said a source familiar with the investigation.
The source said that the authorities believe Ahmad Effendi recruited the man, who was already influenced by IS ideology before attending the school, into the terror group.
The man also helped get Ahmad Effendi money and tactical gear for his stay in Syria.
According to the source, the man was not ordered to go to Syria himself because IS leaders there needed him for operations here.
He would get his orders direct from senior European IS leaders in Syria via social media and chat applications, it was learned.
"He always sought the counsel of these men," the source said.
Investigations led police to the other man, who had come back from Syria in August last year, and was in contact with the younger militant.
The source said the second man had been on the police wanted list for a few years for militancy.
"He was elusive, always changing his routes to secret meetings or changing the venues while here," the source said. "He was paranoid about staying undetected and this made him hard to track."
The militant was in Syria until wounded in the right shoulder.
When he returned to Malaysia, he tricked IS sympathisers on Facebook into believing that he was still fighting over there.
They would send him irfak (donations) and he would collect "at least RM8,000 a month", according to the source.
The source said that running the scam enabled the man to support himself and two wives.
Both the militants met about five times during the past months to pick their targets and plan their attacks.
Both were trying to get firearms and planned to carry out lone-wolf attacks, including targeting VIPs, the source said.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said it was worrying that senior IS leaders in Syria were directing members in this country.
This modus operandi was used in the terror attacks that happened in Kuwait, France and Tunisia last month, he said in a press statement yesterday.
Police seized books on Salafi jihadism, a transnational religious-political ideology based on violence, from the homes of the men.
Receipts for tactical equipment were also found among their belongings.
The IGP previously vowed that police would be vigilant to prevent terror attacks on Malaysian soil.
These arrests bring the number of militants nabbed here to 110 since 2013.