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KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 ― Malaysians who left the country to fight for global terror network Islamic State (IS) can now return if they are willing to meet the government’s conditions, Counterterrorism head Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said today.
Doha-based broadcaster Al Jazeera reported Ayob saying Malaysians who made the mistake of going overseas to join the IS fight may return as long as they agree to undergo interrogation, follow all government checks, enforcement and complete one-month government-sanctioned rehabilitation programme.
“We will conduct thorough checks and investigation on each returnee. We bring in clerics and psychologists to evaluate their ideology and psychological make-up.
“We will compare intelligence which we received from friendly foreign services. If there is evidence that a returnee was involved in ISIL's militant activities, he or she would be charged in court,” Ayob was quoted saying.
He also said that no one will be spared questioning, but not all will be detained.
According to Ayob, 11 Malaysians have since returned home; eight men are to be charged or have been convicted in court while the remainder are one woman and two children aged three and five.
The IS “caliphate” which is located in Syria and Iraq has all but collapsed as the latest US-backed offensive under the Syrian Democratic Forces is out to take the last village stronghold in Baghouz, eastern Syria.
Despite their defeat, Ayob noted that there are still Malaysians willing to fight for the dying cause but the police is keeping an eye on them. He pointed out that those who cannot go to Syria are trying to head to Mindanao in southern Philippines as militant groups there have IS links.
Currently, there are 51 Malaysians still in Syria, including 17 children.
In total, more than 100 Malaysians had joined IS and now around 13, including women and children wants to come home. Among them is a 29-year old Malaysian named Lidia who wanted to come home after bombs started falling around her.
In October 2014 her husband had secretly taken her and their infant son to Syria. After her husband was killed, she remarried despite her father who requested anonymity, asked her to come home.
Her second husband too was killed and two weeks ago the Mandarin speaking lab-technician messaged her father in Johor and informed him that she had fled the IS and asked for his help to return home.
Her father, who requested anonymity had never given up hope she would want to come home.
Ayob, said the authorities are trying to bring her home but the situation is a complex one as it involves multiple parties across different nations.
Lidia apparently had to walk for five days from Mayadin in Deir Az Zor district with her two-year-old and four-year-old sons to reach a Kurdish-controlled camp in Hasakah ― where thousands of wives and children of IS fighters have fled for refuge.
“She travelled with another Malaysian named Aisyah to al-Hol camp in Hasakah. She has food and shelter. But the place is not comfortable for her and her sons. She wants to return home as soon as possible.
“She has registered herself with the Red Cross,” Lidia's father reportedly said.
He also reportedly explained that her first husband took her to Syria and Lidia did not understand what IS was.
After discussing his daughter's plight with the Red Cross in the nation's capital, her father is not expecting her home any time soon, especially as another man told him he has been waiting for his daughter to come home from IS for a year already.