KUALA LUMPUR: A man detained by police had been planning to assassinate a host of former leaders, including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim Guan Eng, as well as former Attorney General Tommy Thomas.
The suspect was apprehended by the Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division (E8) in January, along with five other men who supported the Islamic State (IS).
E8 assistant director Senior Asst Comm Azman Omar said the suspect admitted to wanting to launch lone attacks against former premier Dr Mahathir and former finance minister Lim, Thomas, and even former religious affairs minister Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
“During interrogation, the suspect admitted he planned to stab them with a knife or a sharp object, ” he said.
SAC Azman added that the planned lone wolf attacks were meant as a sign of support for IS.
In August last year, he said, Singapore police also arrested a Malaysian working in the republic.
The suspect, who was involved in funding militant activities and planning to go to Syria, was later handed over to Malaysian police.
He said police made seven such arrests last year.
“This is a significant drop as more than 10 militants were arrested the previous year while in 2018, we made 109 arrests.
“Police have yet to make any such arrests this year, ” SAC Azman told an online forum organised by the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia yesterday.
The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing border closures have also affected terrorist groups, he said.
“When border controls were tightened, it made it really difficult for terror groups to penetrate the country, ” he added.
SAC Azman said the death of IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Banghdadi has also sent the terror group into a downward spiral.
The killing of several prominent Malaysian militants in Syria, including the notorious Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, 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 terrorist fighters in Syria, ” he said.
SAC Azman said currently there are 56 Malaysian foreign terrorist fighters in Syria.
“They comprise 19 men, 12 women and 25 children. They are held in prisons in Syria, ” he said.
While the number of militant arrests in Malaysia has reduced significantly, it does not mean the terrorist threat has similarly decreased, SAC Azman stressed.
“We are always on guard for any potential threat to the country, ” he said, adding that since 2013,558 people have been arrested for suspected involvement with IS.
While most of the detainees have completed their prison sentences, SAC Azman said E8 was still monitoring them regularly to ensure that they do not return to militant life.
“In fact, they are also required to go through a rehabilitation programme while serving their sentences in prison or detention centres. It is to prepare them to return to mainstream society, ” he said.