New terror group in Malaysia 'ready to hit Western targets'

MALAYSIA - With Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM) effectively neutralised and unable to carry out their operations, this new organisation had "borrowed" the two terror groups' playbook and revisited their foiled elaborate plans of attacks and was ready to carry them out.

Sources close to the on-going investigations told the New Straits Times that the new terror group was not averse to using violence to fight secularism.

Among the targets in the group's strike folders were foreign embassies, as well as entertainment outlets and places frequented by Westerners.

"Their script is not much different (from JI and KMM)... Most of the places they were planning to attack were similar to those planned by the two terror groups," one of the sources said.

JI had planned to simultaneously bomb the US embassy and another building in Singapore where its business interests were located at the end of 2001. An Arab suicide bomber had been tasked with the job, using six lorries packed with 17 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. Fortunately, that attempt was thwarted.

Also on their target list were several entertainment outlets in Thailand popular with Americans. These plans were foiled, however.

Unfortunately, on Oct 12, 2002, JI's plan to create chaos and bloodbath came to deadly effect in the Bali bombings.

The plan was formalised in August 2002 and was perfectly executed. It called for a series of three explosions in the heart of the tourist district of Kuta.

The first of three massive explosions ripped through the district packed with revellers at 11.08pm. In all, 202 people were killed, most of them Australians.

Sources in the ongoing probe said the new terror group had been planning to carry out a hit similar to the botched JI attack on Dec 31, 1999, in Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar, here. The group had targeted the area's entertainment outlets, which were popular with foreign visitors at the time. Six pipe bombs were placed in different parts of the area but failed to detonate after they were soaked by the rain.

Other attacks planned by JI included one against the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) as well as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds outlets in the country.

In the 1999 KLIA plan, six KMM members were tasked with killing a couple, one of whom had converted as they returned from Melbourne, Australia. The men, armed with an M-16 rifle and a Colt pistol, had staked out the arrival hall but failed to execute their plan as they lost their targets in the crowd.

That same year, JI tasked three men to shadow US Navy personnel out on liberty in the Bukit Bintang area. The operatives, armed with shotguns, would have executed their plans if it weren't for the presence of policemen on patrol. The sheer volume of people out that night also prevented them from getting a clear shot.

Two years later, in April, they tried again. This time, KMM took the lead. Their targets this time were the officers and sailors of the US Navy command ship USS Blue Ridge, who were on their way back to their vessel in Port Klang.

Four KMM members trailed the four buses the US Navy men were in but backed out as they realised that not only were they outnumbered, they were also outgunned as they only had with them one M-16, two handguns and several homemade bombs. The fact that they had not fitted false registration plates on their cars also forced them to rethink their plans. The federal police headquarters and immigration checkpoint at the Causeway were also on the two militant groups' hit list.

"The plan to bomb the water pipes that run across the Causeway was aimed at putting a strain on Kuala Lumpur-Singapore bilateral ties. These militant groups reject the country's democratic system and their thinking is not at all straightforward.

"An attack like that, if successful, would provide the setting for militant groups like JI and KMM to pursue their bigger agenda," said the source, who added that authorities believe the agenda of "removing the government of secular Muslim nations" was still being aggressively pursued by such militant groups.

In these past instances, the authorities had managed to stop them and arrested them under the now repealed Internal Security Act. In the last few days, police have picked up 10 members of the new terror group which had been aggressively spreading their al-Qaeda- influenced ideology and doctrine to other states.

It was just in 2010 that authorities said an al-Qaeda cell was detected operating in Gombak and that they were recruiting new members to become suicide bombers. Sources had told the NST that the new organisation shared the ideologies of the two terror groups, JI and KMM.

The cell planned to attack religious locations, including a temple in Batu Caves. This, too, was thwarted.