KUALA LUMPUR: A man detained by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division (E8) confessed he was planning to kill several top leaders prior to the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) last year.
On his hit list were former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former finance minister Lim Guan Eng, former minister Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and former Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas.
E8 assistant director Senior Asst Comm Azman Omar said the man was arrested in January last year along with five other men who supported the Islamic State (IS).
"During interrogation, the suspect admitted that he planned to launch lone-wolf attacks against the then government leaders.
"He was planning to stab them with a knife or a sharp object," SAC Azman said during an online forum organised by the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia on Thursday (March 25).
SAC Azman said the planned lone wolf attacks were meant as a sign of support for the IS struggle.
"In August the same year, we also arrested a man, who worked in Singapore.
"He was actually arrested by Singaporean authorities for being involved in funding militant activities and planning to go to Syria.
"He was later handed over to Malaysian police," he said.
Overall, only seven arrests were made last year, SAC Azman said.
"This is a significant drop as more than 10 people were arrested the previous year while in 2018, we made 109 arrests.
"For this year, no arrests have been made," SAC Azman said.
The Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia has really impacted terrorist groups, he added.
"When border controls were tightened, it made it really difficult for terror groups to penetrate the country's borders.
"It can be said that the IS struggle is not as great as during its rise in Syria back in 2014. The death of their leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi also sent the terror group into a downward spiral," he said.
Besides the death of Abu Bakr, the deaths of several prominent Malaysian militants in Syria, including the notorious Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi have led to waning support for the terrorist group.
"Wanndy was killed by a US drone strike in Syria in 2017.
"It definitely affected the morale of Malaysian foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) in Syria," he added.
SAC Azman said currently, 56 Malaysian FTF are still in Syria.
"They comprised 19 men, 12 women and 25 children.
"They are being held in several prisons in Syria," he said.
While the number of militant arrests in Malaysia has reduced significantly, it does not mean that terrorist threat has decreased, SAC Azman said.
"We are always on guard of any potential threat to the country," he added.
Since 2013, a total of 558 people have been arrested for suspected involvement with IS, he said.
"A total of 256 individuals have been prosecuted, 51 have been placed under the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), 37 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and the remaining were released," he added.
While most of the detainees have completed their prison sentences, SAC Azman said the E8 is still monitoring them regularly to ensure that they do not return to a life of militancy.
"In fact, they are also required to go through a rehabilitation programme while serving their sentences in prison or detention centres.
"It is a preparation for them to return to mainstream society," he said.