Malaysians seeking to join militant groups have taken to posing as humanitarian aid workers in a bid to travel undetected, according to the Malaysian government, which has found it difficult to root out Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) recruitment networks.
Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told Parliament yesterday that it has become hard to discover the "true motives" of those intending to take up arms overseas, reports said.
"While we try our best to put a stop to Malaysians getting involved in terrorist and militant activities, it is hard to track and identify those who are going to join such groups because they disguise themselves as aid workers with humanitarian NGOs," he was reported as saying by The Star.
Some 167 Malaysians have been identified as having links to armed violence overseas since December 2001.
Thirty-seven people connected to ISIS, including five women and key recruiters, have been arrested since April, police say. Despite several people being charged in court with terrorism, the authorities say more could be at large.
Police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay did not want to comment on suspects posing as aid workers, so as not to jeopardise ongoing investigations, but told The Straits Times that many of the suspects have become adept at making sure they do not bear incriminating evidence of militancy.
"They have nothing on their bodies or luggage, and delete everything off their handphones," he said of some suspects caught just before boarding planes to leave the country.
Defence expert Dzirhan Mahadzir said potential militants pretending to be aid workers was a problem, but the investigations should be left to the destination countries.
"We don't really stop people from leaving the country," he told The Straits Times. "It could be that some police inquiries here have been inconclusive because of this tactic, but this information has to be reported back from destination countries."
This article was first published on Nov 4, 2014.
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