MALAYSIAN police have confirmed they thwarted a plan to attack the closing ceremony of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last week.
The top Royal Malaysia Police official, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun, said a member of the Islamic-State linked Abu Sayyaf militant group had planned to attack the ceremony at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, as well as an Independence Day parade the following day.
The suspected attacker, a 25-year-old Philippine national, had been involved in fighting, kidnapping and beheading of foreign hostages in the Philippines, the Inspector-General said in a statement.
The arrest will raise concerns about increasing co-operation among militants within Southeast Asia, and what governments fear is the spreading influence of Islamic State as it loses ground in the Middle East.
Mohamad Fuzi did not identify the suspect, nor did he give any detail of the plans to attack the closing ceremony.
The man was arrested in a raid on August 30 – the day of the ceremony – along with seven other suspected members of the hardline Abu Sayyaf, including another Philippine national.
Authorities confirmed earlier that they had detained Philippine Abu Sayyaf leader Hajar Abdul Mubin, 25, also known as Abu Asrie, in the August 30 raid.
Abu Asrie was arrested with six Malaysians and another Philippine national, aged between 20 and 52, police said earlier.
— Kuala Lumpur 2017 (@KL2017) August 30, 2017
Eleven other suspected militants, including nine foreigners, were picked up in a two-month security operation before the games.
Since 2013, Muslim-majority Malaysia has arrested more than 250 people on suspicion of links to Islamic State.
Among those picked up were two Iraqi brothers, aged 41 and 63, who were suspected to have served as commanders for Islamic State, Mohamad Fuzi said. They were working as technicians and were arrested in a Kuala Lumpur suburb on August 11.
The Iraqis arrived in Malaysia separately and were detained on information from foreign intelligence agencies, a Malaysian police source told Reuters.
“One arrived last year, while the other came in early August. We’re still investigating what their activities were in Malaysia,” said the source, who did not wish to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to media.
Others picked up in the sweep included suspects from Bangladesh, the Maldives, Indonesia and the Palestinian territories.
Police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told Reuters the number of foreigners showed the growing Islamic State threat in the region. – Reuters.