KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have foiled plans for a wave of bombings drawn up by radical Islamic militants inspired by Iraq’s extremist jihad group Islamic State, a top counter-terrorism official said on Tuesday.
The 19 suspected militants arrested from April to June were formulating plans to bomb pubs, discos and a Malaysian brewery of Danish beer producer Carls–berg, said Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division.
Ayob Khan told Agence France-Presse the group, all Malaysians, had visions of establishing a hardline Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philip–pines and Singapore, and planned to travel to Syria to learn from the Islamic State, which was formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL.
The plotters included pro–fessionals and two housewives.
They were only in the early stages of discussing their plans and did not have heavy wea–pons or bomb-making knowl–edge, he said.
Seven have already been charged with offences ranging from promoting terrorism to possession of home-made rifles.
They planned “a campaign of violence and armed struggle and to die as martyrs,” Ayob Khan said, adding police believe there could still be co-plotters at large in Malaysia.
Some of those arrested were apprehended at airports on the way to Turkey and Syria to seek training and other support from IS.
IS espouses an extreme brand of Islam. It is believed to have thousands of Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, some of them Westerners.
It has overrun large swathes of Iraq as it wages a ruthless cam–paign to establish a Middle Eastern caliphate under condi–tions akin to those of the reli–gion’s early years.
The Malaysian plotters were aged between 20 and 50. Some of the arrests had been pre–viously announced by autho–rities, but police had not yet detailed the group’s suspected plans and ideology.
Some had begun raising money—including via Face–book—to travel to Syria, typically under the pretext of “humani–tarian work,” Ayob Khan said.
Killing of fellow Muslims
“From interrogating them, they talk about ISIL ideology, in–cluding the killing of innocent people and also Muslims who are not in their group,” he said.
Bars and the Carlsberg brewery near Kuala Lumpur were appa–rently targeted because alcohol consumption is forbidden by Islam, he added.
Ayob Khan said the suspects also had hoped to create networks with regional and global IS cells.
He said police believe up to 40 Malaysians have gone to Syria to join the civil war there.
Muslim-majority Malaysia practices a moderate brand of Islam and has not seen any notable terror attacks in recent years.
But concern has risen in the multi-faith nation over growing hardline Islamic views and the country’s potential as a militant breeding ground.
According to local media reports, 26-year-old Malaysian factory worker Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki blew up 25 elite Iraqi soldiers in a suicide car-bomb attack there in May.
Malaysia has previously has been home to several suspected key figures in groups such as al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asia-based organ–ization blamed for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings and nume–rous other attacks.