KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities have arrested 15 people, including a police officer, suspected of links to Islamic State and of planning an attack in the country, the police chief said on Thursday.
The announcement came after Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels by Islamic State that killed at least 31 people and injured 270. Muslim-majority Malaysia has been on high alert since Islamic State-linked militants carried out an armed attack in the capital of neighboring Indonesia in January.
Some of the suspects received orders from Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a Malaysian Islamic State recruiter in Syria, to launch an attack on Malaysia, inspector general Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement.
They were involved in collecting funds to be channeled to an Islamic State-linked group in the southern Philippines and arranging the movement of “two foreign terror suspects” from Malaysia to a Southeast Asian country, Khalid said.
Other activities included attempting to acquire chemicals to make bombs, recruiting Malaysians to join Islamic State in Syria, collecting funds from Islamic State sympathizers in Malaysia and setting up working arrangements with militant groups around Southeast Asia, he said.
“Between 22 and 24 March, the special branch counter-terrorism unit launched an operation in seven states, including the capital of Kuala Lumpur,” Khalid said, adding that the suspects included one aircraft technician and a Muslim preacher.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said earlier this month that police had foiled an Islamic State plot to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak and other senior ministers last year.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff, Joseph Sipalan; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Nick Macfie