KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 ― The Malaysian jihadist allegedly killed while fighting in Syria this week had previously been detained in Malaysia for a botched robbery attempt, said Malaysian police yesterday.
The 52-year-old man known only as Mat Soh or Abu Turab, was also formerly a member of a locally-based jihadist militant group Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), Malay daily Utusan Malaysia reported a key police official as saying.
Mat Soh is believed to be Zainan Harith, who was detained under the Arms Act for a robbery in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya in June 15, 2001, it quoted Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin, assistant director-general of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division as saying.
“Police has identified 22 Malaysians in those countries who are directly involved in the conflict. There are some who have died but we could not verify it,” Ayob was further quoted as saying.
It is understood that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still verifying the alleged death and injuries in the incident.
Yesterday, Malay Mail Online reported that the Selangor-born Mat Soh allegedly died from shelling in strife-torn Syria around 2pm local time yesterday, while defending the town of Arzeh with several other jihadist fighters.
Two other Malaysian jihadist fighters were allegedly injured during the same attack on the town.
One of the injured, believed to be Zainuri Kamarudin, 47, was Zainan’s accomplice during the 2001 robbery and also his comrade in KMM, according to Utusan Malaysia.
The other man, believed to be Mohd Rafi Udin, 48, had once been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960, it added.
The critically-injured Rafi was once a taxi driver residing in Cheras, and was detained by Indonesian police in Palu, Sulawesi in April 22, 2003. He was then deported a year later and detained under ISA, the paper said, citing the police official.
Zainuri was a technician from Bota, Perak, and had been arrested in 2001 for possessing firearms and jailed for 10 years, it added.
Both men had received military training in Afghanistan, the paper reported the police official as saying.
In June, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 15 nationals were allegedly killed in Syria after joining in terrorist and jihadist activities with the al-Qaeda offshoot, according to the Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations in New York.
In Malaysia, police intelligence warned this month that Malaysians, who joined the Islamist militant group Islamic State (IS) to launch strikes in Iraq and Syria, are now training their sights on their home government and several other targets in the country.
The police said 19 suspected local militants have been arrested between April and June this year while they were on their way to Turkey and Syria for training and support from IS under the guise of “humanitarian work”.
The group was planning to establish a hardline Southeast Asian Islamic caliphate which would include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore, he said in the English daily The Star this week.
Putrajaya has designated the IS, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as a terrorist group.