KUALA LUMPUR - A Singaporean arrested recently for militant activities had multiple businesses in Johor Baru, ranging from massage parlours to restaurants.
Sources said the suspect, whom Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs identified as Mohamed Kazali Salleh, 48, also brought in scrap cars from Singapore and Indonesia to Malaysia.
"The authorities are investigating whether the businesses were a front for the Islamic State terror group," said a source, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mohamed Kazali was among six suspected militants detained by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division in anti-terror sweeps between Dec 19 and Jan 28.
The militant, who had given funds and received orders from Malaysian militant leader Akel Zainal, was told to recruit a few others for an attack on a Freemason building in central Johor Baru, another source said.
"He has been in close contact with Akel since 2008. Authorities discovered that in December last year, Akel told him to target a Freemason building in the Nong Chik area," the source said.
The suspect was handed over to the Singaporean authorities on Jan 7 after Bukit Aman completed the investigations.
Mohamed Kazali was detained under the country's Internal Security Act.
"Based on intelligence, the suspect was not leading any terror cell in the island republic," said a source.
Five others detained along with Mohamed Kazali during the operations by Bukit Aman police were two Malaysians and three men from Bangladesh, the Philippines and a south Asian country.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun had said the two local men had been deported from a foreign country for their involvement with ISIS, and were arrested in Sepang.
It is learnt that the duo were working at a farm in Australia before being deported.
A 21-year-old Filipino, who was a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, was arrested in Kota Kinabalu followed by a 26-year-old south Asian man who was detained in Puchong along with a Bangladeshi cleaner in Klang.
Sources said the south Asian man had been harbouring his fellow countrymen for a month.
"His friend is listed under Interpol's Red Notice for his involvement in terrorist activities," the source said.
The latest arrests bring the total number of militants detained since February 2013 to 459 people.