Local militants feeling the heat, says expert

Following the grenade attack on Movida bar on June 28, police arrested 15 suspects under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
Following the grenade attack on Movida bar on June 28, police arrested 15 suspects under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

PETALING JAYA, July 11 — The attack on a nightclub in Puchong was an act of desperation rather than a well-coordinated attack by Islamic State (IS) militants, a terrorism expert said.

Prof Rohan Gunaratna said the government’s zero-tolerance policy against militants had pressured the group into carrying out an attack.

“The attack carried out by the terror group is indicative of the pressure they are under ... they are reacting to the effective counter terrorism efforts,” said the head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

“The government has been dedicated in pursuing them and so they have to fight back. The government has always done the right thing against militant groups.”

Following the grenade attack on Movida bar on June 28, police arrested 15 suspects under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

Rohan said the government took the threat of terrorism seriously and had allocated sufficient resources towards combating it.

“The government understands the severe threat posed by terrorism to the security, stability and harmony of Malaysia,” he said.

“The counter terrorism leadership has been very effective.”

He said a hard-line military solution would only be necessary to dismantle regional terror networks and urged Asean governments to lend their support to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in combating militants.

“The regional governments must support the hard-line style of Duterte, who is a no-nonsense man and is unlike previous leaders, highly motivated and capable of getting the job done,” he said.

“Duterte must dismantle the terrorist networks in the southern Philippines. This includes both Abu Sayyaf and the Islamic State.”

On November 20 last year, Rohan told Malay Mail several hundred fighters assembled in southern Philippines to carry out region-wide attacks. He said they included those who failed to travel to the Middle East.

Since then, there has been a surge of activity with multiple bombing and shooting attacks in Java, Indonesia, and an increasing number of kidnappings in the tri-border area of the southern Philippines, Sabah and Kalimantan. 

The fighters have now been grouped into an IS off-shoot calling itself the Islamic State, Philippines, and at least 10 Malaysians are believed to be in its ranks, said Rohan.

Based in the southern Philippines island of Basilan, the formation has been dubbed the “Battalion of Migrants” and is primarily made up of Asean citizens.

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