Malaysian police hunt for suspected contract killers of bank founder

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian police said on Tuesday that they were hunting suspected contract killers after a bank founder was gunned down in broad daylight in Kuala Lumpur, fuelling fears of rampant violent crime in the South-east Asian country.

Police insisted that the streets were safe after Bahrain-born Hussain Ahmad Najadi, 75, was shot and killed on Monday as he walked to his car in the Malaysian capital.

His Malaysian wife was also shot and wounded in the attack, one of several shootings around the country that were splashed across newspapers on Tuesday.

Public concern has mounted in Malaysia over proliferating reports of brazen killings, armed robberies, and other crimes that have further tarnished the much-criticised police force, and led to accusations that the government was covering up the extent of the country's crime problem.

Police said Mr Hussain - who in the 1970s founded Arab Malaysian Banking Group, one of Malaysia's largest banks - may have been killed over a disputed land deal.

He was shot at close range in the chest and lower abdomen and died on the spot, according to Malaysian media.

His 49-year-old wife was wounded in the arm before the attackers fled in a taxi from the crime scene in the heart of the capital's commercial area, The Star newspaper said.

Police said they believed three men were responsible for the attack.

"The shooter, we have his photo, but the men behind, we have to investigate. We believe the shooter is a contract killer," Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh told reporters on Tuesday.

He insisted police could maintain public safety.

"Security forces have things under control. If you want to go out late at night, we are still safe," he said when asked about the rising violence.

Malaysian media have reported a number of other unrelated killings, some described as contract-style murders, in the capital and elsewhere.

Among them was an attack on the head of a non-government organisation who has accused authorities of manipulating crime data. Mr R. Sri Sanjeevan, the head of MyWatch, a crime and police watchdog, was in serious condition in hospital after being shot by unknown assailants on Saturday.

Media reports have speculated that Mr Sanjeevan was targeted because he planned to expose police links with drug syndicates.

He was reported on Tuesday to be under police guard in a hospital outside the capital awaiting surgery to remove a slug from his ribcage.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has claimed that crime has fallen in the past two years.

But Mr Sanjeevan and opposition leaders say statistics have been doctored by the authorities.

Meanwhile, fears among the public have seen gated communities and private security arrangements mushroom in residential areas in Malaysian cities.

Purse-snatchings and burglaries are widely viewed as being at epidemic levels in the Muslim-majority country.

Recent months have also seen a spate of brazen restaurant and convenience store robberies, while burglary victims have included a Cabinet minister and relatives of the deputy premier and the national police chief.