KUALA LUMPUR - A 32-year-old Indonesian man, identified as the main suspect in making arrangements for fellow militants from his country to head to Syria, had previously gone to Pakistan in 2009 to gain the cooperation of al-Qaeda.
Sources revealed that the suspect had successfully arranged for Indonesian militants to be trained by the terror group before he was detained by Indonesian authorities upon his return to his home country.
"This mastermind was detained in 2009 and was only released in March this year.
"The authorities believe that this man went back to actively recruiting militants among his countrymen," a source told The Star yesterday.
It is believed that before he was caught on Dec 2, the suspect and his group of militants had used Malaysia as a transit point a few times to go to Turkey before booking a passage into Syria.
"They (the militants) managed to evade detection by police but Malaysian Counter Terrorism managed to track them down.
"The police are also investigating whether this Indonesian cell tried to expand its network with Malaysian militants," the source said.
The source added that there was a possibility that other Indonesian cells had also used Malaysia as a transit point.
"The authorities are investigating whether clandestine meetings were held with Malaysian militants as well," a source said.
The suspect is believed to have connections with the Abu Sayyaf group's right-hand member Umar Patek.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysia would never be used as a training ground or launching pad for the terrorists, especially the Islamic State (IS).
"We are on top of this situation and we are ready to face any threats.
"We will always remain vigilant," he said.
It was reported that the main suspect and six other Indonesians were picked up around Selangor on Dec 2. They included four women.
Also detained were five children, aged between five months and five years. They are children from three families.
All the detainees have been deported to Indonesia.
"The arrest of the Indonesian suspects was a joint effort involving the police, as well as the global and regional intelligence and enforcement agencies," he said.
"The police are strict in handling issues pertaining to international militants who use Malaysia as a transit ground before heading to their third country destination," he said.