Malaysian IS fighters driven 'by desire to be good Muslims', says US security firm
Published: December 9, 2015 09:30 AM GMT+8
To date, more than a hundred individuals suspected of militant activities — including planning attacks on local targets and leaders — have been detained by local police. ― File picKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Malaysians who joined the Islamic State terrorist group did not have militant links prior to enlisting, unlike counterparts from Indonesia, according to a report by the US-based The Soufan Group (TSG).
Juxtaposed with the composition of Indonesian recruits who were veterans of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror organisation, the findings suggest that otherwise ordinary Malaysians — for reasons yet to be determined — were particularly susceptible to IS recruitment tactics.
"They (the Malaysia recruits) largely had no prior association with extremist groups, appeared to be motivated by a desire to be good Muslims and had a romanticized notion of an Islamic caliphate.
"After viewing Islamic State propaganda online, they believed that the the Islamic State caliphate offered them a life of piety that would increase their chances of rewards in the afterlife," according to the group's report on foreign fighters in the IS.
Of particular concern to local authorities is TSG's conclusion that the aspiring militants prevented from leaving Malaysia for Syria could take out their frustrations on their home country.
The threat of such a localised attack was demonstrated in the attacks orchestrated by IS militants in Paris last month that left 130 people dead and nearly 400 injured.
Local police have reported frequent success in detecting and arresting Malaysians either planning to travel to or already en route to Syria, with several already charged with supporting terrorism.
"At the same time, some of them were prepared to carry out attacks at home in support of the Islamic State if they could not travel to Syria, and to punish their governments," TSG said.
The findings that aspiring Malaysian IS recruits were not individuals who previously demonstrated militant tendencies will compound data from a Pew Research Centre survey last month that showed disproportionate support for the terrorist group in the country.
In the study of Muslims' attitude towards IS, which the Pew Research Centre gleaned from its 2015 Global Attitudes survey, support level for the group in Malaysia was tied for second place with Senegal among 11 nations with significant Muslim populations polled.
In neighbouring Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world by population — 79 per cent of respondents said they were against IS, with just four per cent saying they were positive about the organisation.
Anxiety over the advance of the IS and other militant groups took centre stage during the Asean Summit last month, where both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and US President Barack Obama addressed the topic at length.
Authorities here have increasingly reported arrests for suspected terrorist involvement here, primarily over connections to the IS.
To date, more than a hundred individuals suspected of militant activities — including planning attacks on local targets and leaders — have been detained by local police.
TSG describes itself as a provider of strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organisations.
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