PM vows action as shootings stoke Malaysia crime fears

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's prime minister vowed Tuesday that police would crack down on "brazen" crimes as concern over rising lawlessness grew after a respected businessman was gunned down in broad daylight.

Bahrain-born Hussain Ahmad Najadi, 75, became the latest victim of a spate of gun violence when he was killed Monday as he walked on a street in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

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

Public concern has mounted in Malaysia over proliferating reports of killings, armed robberies and other crimes that have further tarnished a police force widely criticised as corrupt and inept, and led to accusations the government was covering up the extent of the crime problem.

"I am deeply concerned by recent developments where murders involving firearms can occur in a brazen manner," Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail, noting that people were "becoming increasingly worried".

"We are ready to give the police anything it needs in its fight against serious crime," he said, adding they "must take immediate action to restore public confidence".

Police said Najadi - who in the 1970s founded and led Arab Malaysian Development Bank, one of Malaysia's largest banks, before leaving in 1982 - 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 Malaysian wife was wounded in the arm before the attackers fled in a taxi from the scene in the heart of the capital's commercial area, The Star newspaper said.

Police said they believed three men carried out the attack.

"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.

Media Tuesday also reported a number of other unrelated killings, some described as contract-style murders, in the capital and elsewhere.

On Saturday R. Sri Sanjeevan, the head of an crime watchdog NGO that has accused authorities of manipulating crime data, was shot and wounded by unknown attackers.

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

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

Najib's administration has claimed crime has fallen in the past two years.

But Sanjeevan and opposition leaders say statistics have been doctored to hide a worsening public safety situation.

The opposition says this is due to the government's failure after 56 years in power to reform the police force, which is widely seen as pro-establishment.

Public fear has seen gated communities and private security arrangements mushroom in residential areas.

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

But recent months have also seen a spate of brazen mass robberies at restaurants, while burglary victims have included a cabinet minister and relatives of the deputy premier and the national police chief.