Three militants inspired by the Islamic State group have been arrested in Malaysia, accused of planning attacks on non-Muslim places of worship in the country and neighbouring Indonesia, police said Thursday.
The suspects are thought to have links to a wider IS-inspired cell, some of whose members were detained last week in Malaysia.
Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim-majority countries, are on high alert amid fears that followers of the jihadists are plotting attacks after the group’s defeat in the Middle East.
An Indonesian, Nuruddin Alele, was detained Tuesday outside Kuala Lumpur following a tip-off, Malaysian national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said.
The 34-year-old man had been exposed to IS ideology while serving a five-year jail term in Indonesia.
He was involved in a plot to kill high-profile individuals and attack Christian, Hindu and Buddhist places of worship and entertainment outlets around Kuala Lumpur, the police chief added.
Authorities announced Monday they had foiled that plot after making the first series of arrests, and seizing explosives.
They have not identified the high-profile individuals targeted. The planned attacks were aimed at avenging the death of a Muslim firefighter in riots at an Indian temple last year.
The two other suspects — Muhammad Syazani Mahzan and Muhamad Nuurul Amin Azizan from Malaysia — were arrested Tuesday in the northern Malaysian state of Kedah, police said.
“These two suspects… had undergone bomb-making training in (the Indonesian city of) Yogyakarta in 2018 which was conducted by the terror group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah,” said the police chief.
“The two suspects had been seen surveying several churches in Yogyakarta to launch attacks.”
Jemaah Anshurat Daulah (JAD) is an Indonesian extremist group that has pledged allegiance to IS and was blamed for suicide bombings at churches last year in the city of Surabaya that killed a dozen people.
Muhammad Syazani is also suspected of planning attacks on religious minorities’ places of worship in Malaysia.
Sixty percent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim but the country is also home to substantial religious and ethnic minorities.
Indonesia has seen a surge of IS-inspired plots and assaults in recent years, although Malaysia has not had any notable terror attacks.
Creeping Islamic conservatism and the influence of hardliners have been blamed for eroding a traditionally moderate form of Islam in both countries. – AFP