KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian and Indonesian militants have formed a 100-strong unit called Majmu'ah al Arkhabiliy under the command of the Islamic State (IS).
Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan revealed that the intelligence agencies detected the new wing last year.
"They have about 100 members and we are still identifying the number of Malaysians in the group," he told a press conference.
He said police knew of 61 Malaysians in Syria, 10 of them women. The youngest was a 14-year-old boy who followed his parents there.
Prior to calling themselves Majmu'ah al Arkhabiliy, SAC Ayob said, the unit went by the name of Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiah in Syria and Iraq.
He said that about 30 Malaysians were detected in Syria before June and the number had since risen to 61, which is worrying.
SAC Ayob said the Malaysia-Indonesia squad was based in Rakha and followed the model set during the Afghanistan war.
"The fighters from both countries are in a complex of flats there. We believe their families are there too," he said.
He said police believed there were about 50 Malaysian families in Rakha although not all are members of the militant fighting unit.
"Militants who speak a common language will band together. In Afghanistan, Singaporeans and Filipinos formed a similar pact," SAC Ayob said.
New arrivals in Syria were given one month of weapons training, according to him.
"If they come with their families, their family members will be placed in the flats while the men went for the training.
He conceded that Majmu'ah Al-Arkhabiliy would likely attract more fighters from the two countries.
"The quarters or encampment in Rakha is almost like a mini-Malaysia or Indonesia.
"They cook food from their home countries and speak the same language," he said.
Although SAC Ayob said the youngest Malaysian in Syria was the 14-year-old, there had been recent reports that a married couple from Penang went there with their infant son on Jan 26.
According to foreign intelligence reports, Katibah Nusantara was formed in the middle of 2013.