PETALING JAYA - They are Malaysians with a salafi jihadist mindset and they are undergoing militant training provided by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is trying to conquer a large part of the Middle-East.
However, these militants may not have just the Middle-East on their minds. Their ultimate target could well be Malaysia. They may be out to topple the government and eradicate any form of secular governance.
Some who had joined ISIL are civil servants and students, including those from pondok (village) schools. Among them was a naval officer who was arrested last week.
Police realise that these militants can pose a danger to national security and are zooming in on them.
Salafi jihadists are fighting for what they believe are the true teachings of Islam as practised by their forefathers. Salaf means ancestors in Arabic.
The salafi jihadists in Malaysia aim to free the country from what they perceive as the "shackles of secularism".
Police uncovered the participation of salafi jihadists in ISIL militant training following a crackdown on the international terror network's recruitment drive in Malaysia.
The ISIL terror network has sent shockwaves throughout the world by their acts of deadly violence that target mainly the Shi'ite Muslims in Syria and Iraq.
A Pahang-born man has gained notoriety as the first Malaysian suicide bomber in Iraq. Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki drove a military SUV filled with tonnes of explosives into the SWAT headquarters in al-Anbar last month, blowing himself up and killing 25 elite soldiers.
The bombing preceded an attack on the headquarters by ISIL commandos.
Although ISIL is not said to be targeting Malaysia, the locals undergoing ISIL militant training are acquiring combative capabilities that can enable them to pursue their agenda to eradicate secular elements in Malaysia's administrative system.
Special Branch's Counter Terrorism Division principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan confirmed that the crackdown on suspected local militants in ISIL training exposed the involvement of followers of salafi jihadist ideology.
"The militant members whom we have interrogated are salafi jihadists.
"They strongly feel the current Malaysian Government, whom they regard as secular, can only be ousted through jihad wars.
"By right we should act before the damage is done. Under current laws that require solid evidence, we can only go on a reactive mode but by then the damage is already done," said a former police officer well-versed in counter-terrorism operations.
Sources claimed the emergence of militants could be tackled more effectively if preventive detention laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) were in place.
Under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 that replaced the ISA, the police must have solid evidence to justify detention.
There is also fear that ISIL, also known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) might have set its sights on Malaysia as a potential target, said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday.
"Malaysia jadi sasaran (Malaysia has become a target)," he tweeted.
His response came after retweeting @ulil tweet that read- @ulil: ISIS plan to conquer lands hitherto populated by Muslim majority and build caliphate.