NILAI, Negeri Sembilan – Malaysian authorities detained hundreds of migrant workers on Sunday (August 13) in a security sweep in a commercial centre in Negeri Sembilan state, in search of suspected fighters linked to the ISIS terror group.
It was the third mass security sweep in a week, just ahead of the South-east Asian Games hosted by Malaysia that will start on next Saturday (Aug 19).
Led by Malaysia’s Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division, 312 officers from various agencies raided 742 premises at the commercial area in Nilai 3, some 10km away from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang.
Businesses in Nilai 3 ground to a halt after hundreds of their workers, mainly those from Pakistan and Afghanistan, were detained pending screenings at the Sepang district police headquarters.
Police say they were targeting suspected fighters the Khorasan Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, dubbed ISIS-K.
“We are combing this area due to the density of foreigners from Pakistan and Afghanistan here,” the police’s Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division chief, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told reporters.
“This is a proactive measure to see if there is any a spillage (of ISK-K fighters) given that these communities come from nations that are on high alert for its terror activities.”
ISIS-K is a branch of ISIS, with their members occupying a region in the north eastern province of Iran. Khorasan is a historic name for the region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India, and other surrounding countries.
The main terror group ISIS established a stronghold in Khorasan about two years ago, media reports say.
An ISIS spokesperson, now deceased Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, in 2015 had announced an “expansion” of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s “caliphate” into the “lands of Khorasan.”
Malaysian security officers on Sunday, armed with rifles and radioactive detecting devices, subdued suspects who attempted to flee and recovered weapons in the raids.
“We found four samurai swords and a sledgehammer at the premises (one suspect) works at. We also picked up 36 foreign workers there,” said Datuk Ayob.
“Some claimed to have valid travel documents and work permits but we still detain them and crosscheck their background with Interpol Foreign Terrorist Fighter database, as well as the Special Branch Lookup database among others,” he said.
Today’s (Aug 13) series of raids marked the third major terror sweep in the past week.
Malaysian authorities by last Thursday had detained nearly 700 people as they broke down doors and cut off locks in the large-scale sweeps ahead of the 29th SEA Games.
They nabbed 290 migrants in the second leg of the sweep on Wednesday just outside Kuala Lumpur, even as the police chief delivered a strongly worded message to another country that he did not name for dumping in Malaysia “high-risk” individuals suspected of militant acts.
The 290 suspects were detained in Cyberjaya town, also near the KLIA.
Last Sunday, the authorities detained another 409 migrants in downtown Kuala Lumpur near the popular foreign worker district of historic Masjid Jamek.
The foreigners detained then, from countries such as Syria and Iraq, underwent a screening process at the Sepang district police headquarters, near the airport. So far, none had terrorism links, police had told reporters on Saturday.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said last week that the authorities were searching for at least 16 militants deported from Turkey. The 16 were detained by Turkey just before they crossed the border to join ISIS.
Malaysia had protested against Turkey’s procedure of allowing suspected militants to choose their destination for deportation, without informing the receiving country.
The Malaysian officers involved in the raids for the first time last week started deploying personal radiation devices, or the RadEye, to detect radioactivity.
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