Kuala Lumpur - A foreign lecturer working here and a former Internal Security Act detainee planning attacks on houses of worship were among eight suspected militants detained following anti-terror swoops in three states.
Five of them are Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants who have been arranging safe passage into Malaysia for their comrades since 2015.
The lecturer is a 35-year-old Albanian national, a visiting lecturer at a local public university, said Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
“Intelligence indicates he has connections with Islamic State (IS) militants overseas. Sources said the Albanian suspect was in the midst of finalising his posting as a visiting lecturer.
“He has been in Malaysia since 2012 and even obtained a PhD from a local public university.
“Authorities checked his teaching records and discovered he had taught at various academies in the Klang Valley, including one in Kuala Lumpur from 2014 to 2015,” the source said.
Another source said the lecturer was also suspected of having contacts with a IS facilitator in Turkey, who is in charge of arranging safe passage for IS militants into Syria through Turkey.
As for the former Internal Security Act detainee, the 53-year-old man was believed to have been recruiting inmates in Tapah Prison.
Police said he planned to launch attacks at houses of worship belonging to Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
“His aim was to incite religious and race conflicts in the country,” said Mohamad Fuzi, adding that the suspect was also protecting one of Tandzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia (TAQM) militants.
The former detainee was arrested along with a 37-year-old man suspected of recruiting two Malaysians to join TAQM.
“Both suspects were detained on Oct 6,” he said.
It is learnt that they were earlier sentenced to seven years imprisonment in January 2016, but were ordered to serve the jail term from the date of arrest on February 7, 2013.
They were released on parole on Friday.
However, they were re-arrested upon release at Tapah Prison under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota).
Sources said the former detainee was also actively recruiting inmates to join IS and he is also suspected of withholding information on those planning to launch lone wolf attacks in Malaysia.
On the five ASG militants, authorities believe they bribed officials on duty at the country’s border in Sabah to secure travels for militants to Sandakan, and eventually Kuala Lumpur.
“They also used ‘agents’ in Sabah, including in Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu, to enable those from ASG to travel without valid documents,” a source told Sunday Star yesterday.
The sources said the five ASG suspects are two Malaysians, two Filipinos and a Filipino with a Malaysian permanent resident status. It is also learnt that the suspects’ family members helped the ASG militants to move about in the country.
Mohamad Fuzi said the five suspects were arrested in Sandakan, Sabah, by the Counter Terrorism Division on Sept 27. “It is a follow-up to the arrests of ASG militants on Sept 14 in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.