- Title: Militants seen targeting Myanmar amid Rohingya crisis - Malaysian police
- Date: 4th January 2017
- Summary: SITTWE, MYANMAR (FILE - SEPTEMBER 7, 2016) (REUTERS) MUSLIM CHILDREN STANDING IN THE REFUGEE CAMP VARIOUS OF MUSLIM CHILDREN STANDING VARIOUS OF MUSLIM PEOPLE IN THE CAMP
- Embargoed: 19th January 2017 08:15
- Keywords: Malaysia Rohingya Myanmar crisis migrants Muslims Islamic State terrorism
- Location: KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA & SITTWE, MYANMAR
- City: KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA & SITTWE, MYANMAR
- Country: Malaysia
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Insurgencies
- Reuters ID: LVA0045XO0B45
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Myanmar faces a growing danger of attacks by foreign supporters of Islamic State (IS) recruited from Southeast Asian networks in support of persecuted Muslim Rohingyas, Malaysia's top counter-terrorism official said on Tuesday (January 3).
Malaysian authorities have detained a suspected Islamic State (IS) follower planning to head to Myanmar to carry out attacks, the head of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, said in an interview.
The suspect, an Indonesian whom he did not identify, was detained in Malaysia last month. The suspect was scheduled to be charged on Wednesday (January 4) for possession of materials linked to terrorist groups, which carries a seven-year jail term or fine, Ayob Khan said.
More militants are likely to try to follow his lead in support of the Rohingya cause, Ayob Khan said.
A Myanmar army sweep since October in the north of Rakhine State, on its border with Bangladesh, has sent about 34,000 members of the Rohingya minority fleeing into Bangladesh, the United Nations says.
Residents and rights groups accuse security forces in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar of summary executions and rape in the army operation, launched in response to attacks on police posts on October 9 that killed nine officers. The government of Aung San Suu Kyi denies the accusations of abuse.
Scores of Southeast Asian Muslims, most from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, have travelled to the Middle East to join Islamic State, counter-terrorism police in the region said.
Over the past year, Islamic State has claimed several attacks - or been linked to foiled plots - in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
"There is a high possibility that Muslims, be it from IS or other groups, will find the ways and means to go to Myanmar to help their Rohingya Muslim brothers," Ayob Khan said.
The Malaysian suspect was among seven people arrested for suspected links to Islamic State. The suspect was also involved in a plot to smuggle weapons to Indonesia's Poso region, on Sulawesi island, Ayob Khan said.
Indonesian authorities have detained several suspected foreign militants trying to reach Poso.
Ayob Khan did not say what group in Myanmar the suspect, a plantation worker who had been in Malaysia since 2014, was trying to link up with in Myanmar. He said the suspect, was in contact with Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi, who claimed responsibility on behalf of IS for a grenade attack on a bar in June last year.
"(The suspect) admitted that he is in contact with Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi in Syria and was planning to perform jihad in Myanmar, fighting against the Myanmar government for this Rohingya group in Rakhine State," Ayob Khan said.
Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters an official report into October's violence in Rakhine state found no evidence of an IS presence there or that the Rakhine attacks were linked to IS.
The conflict in Rakhine risks becoming a lightning rod for Islamists in a shadowy network stretching from the Philippines to Indonesia and Malaysia, with links to Islamic State in the Middle East, security analysts and officials say.
Badrul Hisham Ismail, of Malaysian counter-extremism research house Iman Research, said his group had uncovered a network of Malaysian militant operatives involved in recruiting Rohingya Muslims in the country and sending them to Poso, in central Sulawesi, for combat training.
"We also found out there is a network where Malaysians IS recruiters, recruiting Rohingyas in Malaysia and been send to Poso (Sulawesi, Indonesia) for training. Whether they would eventually be sent back to Myanmar to carry out attacks, we do not know. But clearly there is already an existing network between Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Rohingyas," he said.
The International Crisis Group think-tank said in a report last month the coordinated attacks on Myanmar police in Rakhine were carried out by a group called Harakah al-Yakin. While the group had links to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it would be wrong to "over-intrepret the significance of the international links", ICG said.
An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Rohingyas, displaced by previous violence in Myanmar, live in Malaysia.
Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya, viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many of the country's majority Buddhists, are denied citizenship and face severe restrictions on their travel.
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