PETALING JAYA: The group behind the militant attacks and suicide bombings in Syria has captivated more foreign fighters, including Malaysians who called themselves “freelance jihadists”.
“We move alone. We live alone. We acquire our own weapons. We are not aligned to any group,” said Ahmad Salman Abdul Rahim, 38, who was in the film-making business and furthered his studies in London from 1997 to 2008 before giving it all up to become a jihadist.
Despite reports linking Malaysian militants to groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), he stressed that they were fighting independently.
Ahmad Salman considers himself a “freelance jihadist”, claiming he had no links to any terror cells in Malaysia or overseas.
He also has no links to any terror cells in Malaysia, he said.
“I am unfamiliar with Isil and other mujahiddeen groups. I do not wish to get involved in their fight. I know some of their methods can be quite extreme and I do not agree with them,” he said in an interview via Facebook.
Ahmad Salman, together with Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, 21, and former Kedah PAS Youth information chief Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, 45, are some of the known Malaysian jihadists fighting overseas.
(Lotfi had posted previously that he was not part of the Isil network, saying that he was merely in Syria to fight “Allah’s cause” and not for any faction.)
They are active Facebook users and regularly update their activities on the site. Their postings have gained quite a following among Malaysians who share similar ideals.
Asked how the Malaysians were coping during Ramadan, Ahmad Salman said they were not worn out despite having to do battle.
“Thankfully, we do not feel tired or thirsty despite having to fast 16 hours a day under temperatures of up to 40°C,” he said.
Ahmad Salman, who was born in Parit Buntar is one of the estimated 100 Malaysian jihadists fighting in Syria.
He believed he was answering a “call from God” to defend Islam against the atrocities committed by its enemies.
He said they had no intention to terrorise or kill innocent people but were there merely to defend fellow Muslims who were being oppressed by the military forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
“My intention is to defend fellow Muslims who are being tortured, raped and slaughtered. I am not here to terrorise and kill but to protect my religion against vilification from enemies,” he said.
The road he chose had brought him closer to God, he said.
“My life here (in Syria) is extraordinary. I feel closer to Allah. Back in Malaysia, I was easily influenced to commit sin, neglected my daily prayers, and hardly touched the Quran. But here, my faith is so much stronger.”
Ahmad Salman said he had previously travelled to Myanmar to help Rohingya Muslims. He had also tried entering Palestine but found it difficult to breach the border in Lebanon.
“I travelled to 11 other Muslim countries before going to Syria.
“In the end, I was destined to be in Syria. Most of the mujahiddeen groups are also based here.”
He believed the war in Syria was a sign of akhirat (judgment day).
As for his family in Malaysia, he said they were supportive of his belief.
“I still contact my family regularly and they are always calm and happy to hear from me. They understand and support my mission,” he said.
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