KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police have foiled plans for a wave of bombings drawn up by radical Islamic militants inspired by Iraq's extremist jihad group ISIL, a top counter-terrorism official said Tuesday.
The 19 suspected militants arrested from April-June were formulating plans to bomb pubs, discos and a Malaysian brewery of Danish beer producer Carlsberg, said Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division.
Ayob Khan told AFP the group, all Malaysians, had visions of establishing a hardline Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, and planned to travel to Syria to learn from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The plotters included professionals and two housewives.
They were only in the early stages of discussing their plans and did not have heavy weapons or bomb-making knowledge, he said.
Seven have already been charged with offences ranging from promoting terrorism to possession of home-made rifles.
They planned "a campaign of violence and armed struggle and to die as martyrs", Ayob Khan said, adding police believe there could still be co-plotters at large in Malaysia.
Some of those arrested were apprehended at airports on the way to Turkey and Syria to seek training and other support from ISIL.
ISIL, also known as Islamic State, espouses an extreme brand of Islam. It is believed to have thousands of Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, some of them Westerners.
It has overrun large swathes of Iraq as it wages a ruthless campaign to establish a Middle Eastern caliphate under conditions akin to those of the religion's early years.
The Malaysian plotters were aged between 20 and 50. Some of the arrests had been previously announced by authorities, but police had not yet detailed the group's suspected plans and ideology.
Some had begun raising money -- including via Facebook -- to travel to Syria, typically under the pretext of "humanitarian work", Ayob Khan said.
"From interrogating them, they talk about ISIL ideology, including the killing of innocent people and also Muslims who are not in their group," he said.
Bars and the Carlsberg brewery near Kuala Lumpur were apparently targeted because alcohol consumption is forbidden by Islam, he added.
Ayob Khan said the suspects also had hoped to create networks with regional and global ISIL cells.
He said police believe up to 40 Malaysians have gone to Syria to join the civil war there.
Muslim-majority Malaysia practises a moderate brand of Islam and has not seen any notable terror attacks in recent years.
But concern has risen in the multi-faith nation over growing hardline Islamic views and the country's potential as a militant breeding ground.
According to local media reports, 26-year-old Malaysian factory worker Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki blew up 25 elite Iraqi soldiers in a suicide car-bomb attack there in May.
Malaysia has previously has been home to several suspected key figures in groups such as al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asia-based organisation blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings and numerous other attacks.