Nine suspects planning large-scale terror attacks abroad nabbed in KL, Sarawak (Updated)

10 Mar 2019 / 23:39 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: Six Egyptians, two Malaysians and a Tunisian have been arrested for alleged involvement in a North African based Al-Qaeda-linked militant group.

The nine, aged between 20 and 54, were allegedly plotting large-scale terror attacks in several countries when they were arrested in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Sarawak in several raids from Feb 2 to Feb 9 conducted by the Special Branch counter terrorism unit.

The arrests followed intelligence received from several foreign law enforcement agencies on the presence of militants from the Ansar Al-Shariah Al-Tunisia group, which is known to be followers of the Salafist ideology.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said today that among those held were a 21-year-old Egyptian and a 22-year-old Tunisian who had entered Malaysia using false Syrian passports in October last year.

He said both suspects, who are known to be members of Ansar Al-Shariah Al-Tunisia, had planned to use Malaysia as a transit point to sneak into other countries to execute their plans to launch armed attacks.

Mohamad Fuzi said police also learned that in 2016, the two suspects were held for trying to slip into an African country.

The other five Egyptians and the two Malaysians who were also arrested are alleged to have acted as facilitators for the duo by providing them shelter, air tickets and employment.

Mohamad Fuzi said the five Egyptians arrested were a religious school teacher, an Arabic language teacher and three students of higher learning institutions.

The nine, who were were nabbed in Setapak and Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur, as well as Seri Kembangan in Selangor and Serian in Sarawak, were arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

Mohamad Fuzi said the seven foreigners were deported to their home countries on Tuesday in accordance with immigration laws, and police have recommended that they be barred for life from re-entering Malaysia.

“These people attempted to turn Malaysia into their safe haven, as a transit country and a logistics centre. They would sneak into Malaysia either with a legitimate passport or fake travel documents,” he said.

“They would then marry Malaysian women to get a visa or enrol in an institution of higher learning to obtain a student’s visa, or they would start a business here,” he added.

Mohamad Fuzi reiterated that the risk of foreign terrorists entering Malaysia must be viewed seriously, following the defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

“Their objective in coming to Malaysia is to set up a base from which to launch armed attacks on Malaysian soil and in other countries,” he said, adding that to win over the locals, members of Tunisia-based Ansar Al-Shariah are known to engage in charity work and provide education.

The movement, which was founded in 2011, is reported to be closely-linked to Al-Qaeda.

It was reported in 2013 that the Salafist group was declared a terrorist organisation by the Tunisian government and has been blamed for the killing of secular politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.

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