KUALA LUMPUR - The two Malaysian Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) members caught in Istanbul last week had been given about RM5,000 (S$1,642) by Malaysian ISIS militant Mohamad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi to travel to Syria, where he is based.
One of the two suspects, a 29-year-old technician from Muar, Johor, even obtained a RM20,000 personal loan prior to his one-way trip to the war-torn country with his accomplice, a 24-year-old labourer from Miri, Sarawak.
Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism head Deputy Comm Datuk Ayob Khan said initial investigations revealed that Mohamad Wanndy, who is on top of the wanted list, had contacted the two via the messaging application Telegram.
"We believe Mohamad Wanndy influenced them to go to Syria.The suspect from Muar had also received cash from another individual to purchase the tickets to Istanbul," he told The Star on Saturday (Nov 5).
The two ISIS members were detained by Turkish authorities on Oct 28 as they were trying to secure safe passage to Syria.
They were deported a day later.
Both suspects were picked up by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division officers upon arrival at the KL International Airport on Oct 30.
The duo had opted to fly to Istanbul from Bangkok, deeming it a safer route despite it costing more, DCP Ayob added.
"Once they reached Istanbul, Mohamad Wanndy then directed them to Facebook as a form of communication. They were ordered to stay in Turkey for awhile as Mohamad Wanndy made arrangements for their safe passage into Syria," DCP Ayob said.
The two first made contact with Mohamad Wanndy in the middle of last year, according to DCP Ayob.
Both suspects, he said, were members of Mohamad Wanndy's Gagak Hitam, or 'Black Crow', terror cell in Malaysia.
"It is not surprising that members within the terror cell do not know each other. It's one way to limit the chances of all of them getting caught," he said.
"However, we must always be one step ahead of them where intelligence is concerned," DCP Ayob said.
The Syria-based Mohamad Wanndy is believed to have masterminded the bombing of a bar in a Kuala Lumpur suburb in June. It was the first successful terrorist attack on Malaysian soil.
Sources said "puppet master" Mohamad Wanndy, who has been pulling the strings of ISIS operatives in Malaysia since last year, has amassed at least RM100,000 within a short time.
Intelligence sources said the Malacca-born militant received at least RM8,000 monthly from ISIS sympathisers in Malaysia.
With the latest arrests, a total of 257 militants have been detained since 2013.