Malaysia 'at risk of lone-wolf attacks'

Malaysia is at risk of "lone- wolf" attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathisers as long as the violent ideology exists, warns the country's top counter- terrorism official.

"Lone-wolf attacks are always a possibility. We cannot give 100 per cent assurance there will be no attacks as long as the threat of ISIS and its ideology is in the country," Datuk Ayub Khan, principal assistant director of the Special Branch's counter-terrorism division, told The Straits Times.

"We are doing our best to prevent any attacks in Malaysia."

ISIS followers view the democratically elected government of Malaysia as infidel, as the country's Constitution is secular and not based on syariah law.

"ISIS followers label the government as kufra (infidel) and want it toppled. They see the police as the protector of an infidel government and, therefore, our blood is halal (permitted)," said Mr Ayub.

Last year, Malaysian police discovered that ISIS followers had planned attacks against a brewery in Petaling Jaya, nightspots and pubs in Kuala Lumpur and Bangsar, as well as a disco.

At least two Islamic non-governmental organisations are suspected of being ISIS sympathisers and police are closely monitoring their activities, said Mr Ayub.

"One of these NGOs was used by ISIS as a cover to travel to Syria for humanitarian aid. The question is: Did the NGO know?"

To date, 63 Malaysians are known to have travelled to join ISIS, 10 of whom have died. At least two women are known to have borrowed money to pay for their passage to Syria and to fund their living expenses there.

Another 75 Malaysians have been arrested for suspected ties to ISIS, according to police.

Despite numerous arrests and efforts to counter ISIS ideology, the number of Malaysians being recruited has not declined.

"Around 95 to 98 per cent of Malaysians were recruited via social media. ISIS is highly sophisticated and effective in its recruitment campaign in social media," said Mr Ayub.

"We need a well-integrated programme to counter ISIS, to stop people from being recruited," he added.

Some Malaysians who joined ISIS are known to have been inspired by Indonesian clerics such as Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah, which was behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Now serving a 15-year jail term for terror offences, 76-year-old Bashir pledged allegiance to ISIS from his prison cell last year.

This article was first published on April 3, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.