KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian suspected of leading an Islamic State (IS) terror cell in Australia has been detained after operating down under for three months.
The 29-year-old former factory supervisor had been running the cell since Sept 29 and even worked in Australia to mask his "underground" activities.
However, this ruse only alerted the authorities and the Malaysian, who had violated his social visitor pass, was arrested by Australian Immigration officers on Dec 28.
He was deported to Malaysia on Wednesday night and Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division officials were waiting for him at the KL International Airport.
Sources revealed that the man, who hails from Selangor, was arrested upon touching down at about 6am yesterday.
Apparently, the terror cell also consisted of a Malaysian married couple. The duo were also deported and arrested by the Malaysian authorities on Jan 7.
"The authorities believe that the man was responsible for recruiting and arranging for Malaysian militants to head to Turkey and eventually Syria via Australia," a source said.
"They were using Australia as a transit point. So far, at least five Malaysian fighters were believed to have used the designated route.
"Aside from recruiting Malaysians for the cause, the cell also offered advice to fellow fighters on routes to take to evade detection and connect them with contacts in Syria.
"The cell also provided financial assistance for Syria-bound fighters," the source said.
Despite the arrest, the authorities were not ruling out the possibility that there were other Malaysian militants in Australia.
On the married couple, sources said that they had travelled to Australia with their 14-month-old daughter.
"The man is a former factory operator in Selangor while the woman, who hails from Kedah, is a housewife.
"They uprooted and took their baby to Australia with the intention of devoting their lives to the IS cause," the source added.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said all three suspects were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
"We will investigate further to uncover the extent of the terror network," he said.
The arrests of the trio bring the number of people detained by the Bukit Aman division to 54 since last February.
Those arrested include civil servants, navy and air force personnel and an officer attached with the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry.
A former National Service trainer, along with some private and public university students, were among the latest arrests made.