Top Malaysian police officer warns of suicide attacks as ISIS terrorists return home
Malaysian returnees from Syria and Iraq are frustrated with their failure to achieve martyrdom with the collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate and could attempt to continue their holy mission in their homeland by staging suicide attacks, Malaysia’s top police officer warned on Tuesday.
“There has been a lot of hype that these [returnees] are frustrated fighters. They have not been able to implement all their ideals, practise what they have been trained for … so they want to do this [holy mission] back home to release their frustration,” Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Currently, more than two dozen Malaysians are holed up in refugee camps in northern Syria
after the fall of Isis in March.
“All these possibilities are there when they return, based on the experience of countries who have dealt with returnees,” Bador said. “We will cover all these angles. We will deal with it cautiously.”
Bador said the failure of tech giants to identify and remove extremist messages swiftly has allowed impressionable young people to easily access harmful material, which ends up radicalising them.
Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Google are platforms commonly exploited by Isis and radical groups to disseminate their propaganda. Many of the Malaysians in refugee camps, as well as others who are in Malaysia, were radicalised online, Bador said.
“Once they are exposed to this highly inflammatory, extreme literature on religion … quoting the Koran out of context, they will set up their own chat group [to spread the word] and set up a cell,” said Bador, adding many of the radicalised youth are aged 20 to 23.
“Hopefully, these [tech] companies would be more responsible [and] proactive, and appreciate the problem faced by enforcement officers in countries like Malaysia.”
A total of 102 Malaysians travelled to Syria and Iraq to join Isis from 2013, and 40 were killed in combat. Nine died as suicide bombers, according to police.
From 2013 until February 2019, Malaysian police foiled 24 terrorist plots. They also arrested 457 suspected militants, including 131 from 21 countries. The largest group of foreign terror suspects came from the Philippines, totalling 47.
Other terror threats in Malaysia come from members of Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine group that has links with Isis.
Early Tuesday morning, suspected Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen were believed to have abducted 10 crew members from a fishing boat off the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.
Abu Sayyaf is notorious for conducting kidnappings in the waters off Sabah and have beheaded foreigners after ransoms have not been paid.
In the past two years, Malaysian police have arrested scores of Abu Sayyaf fighters hiding in Sabah after running away from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to escape Filipino security forces.
The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), which safeguards the waters of Sabah, will be restructured to maximise efforts to counter threats from Abu Sayyaf, Bador said.
Bador, 60, was appointed as Malaysia’s police chief for a two-year term in May after serving as the director of Special Branch, the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM).
He spent 15 years in counterterrorism operations in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, including the 2001 Bali bombings.
Bador’s elevation to police chief marked the remarkable return of the outspoken, no-nonsense cop who was ousted as deputy director of Special Branch in 2015 by former prime minister Najib Razak after criticising the government’s handling of the scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund.
During his years in the wilderness, Bador became a vegetable farmer in his hometown in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan. When the new Pakatan Harapan government swept into power last year, Bador was appointed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as director of Special Branch before becoming the top cop.
Upon his return to the police force, Bador became one of the key investigators into the 1MDB scandal – which has implicated a host of prominent Malaysians, including fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, popularly known as Jho Low.
Low is suspected of conspiring to launder billions of dollars from 1MDB and bribing officials to turn a blind eye to misappropriations.
Apart from Malaysia, Low is also wanted by the US Department of Justice.