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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia deployed soldiers in its main city on Friday after unconfirmed reports of an “imminent terrorist threat” ahead of a gathering of world leaders for a regional summit, including US President Barack Obama.
At least 2,000 army personnel were stationed at strategic points in Kuala Lumpur and another 2,500 were on standby.
“There have been reports of imminent terrorist threats in Malaysia,” police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement on Thursday night. “At this point, I would like to underline that they have yet to be confirmed.”
Malaysia tightened security following the attacks in France, Egypt, and Lebanon, Khalid said.
The raised alert level comes after Bakar confirmed the existence of an internal police memo detailing the presence of at least 10 potential suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur and eight elsewhere in the country.
The police memo, leaked to local media, revealed details of a meeting last Sunday between members of the armed Philippine groups the Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf, along with those from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
An agreement at the meeting was made to deploy Abu Sayyaf and ISIL fighters to Kuala Lumpur and to Sabah, Malaysia’s eastern-most state, the memo said.
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Elina Noor, director of foreign policy and security studies at Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said the revelation should not surprise anyone.
“Just because something like suicide bombings happen in other parts of the world doesn’t mean [that possibility] can be excluded here,” Noor told Al Jazeera.
“I have never excluded the possibility of a suicide attack here and I don’t think the police here have either. I think the police have been very vigilant throughout.”
Several small rebel groups in the Philippines have pledged allegiance to ISIL.
Abu Sayyaf has long been a thorn in the side of the Philippine government and this week beheaded a Malaysian hostage it had held for six months after ransom negotiations over his release broke down.
But Noor said the news of possible suicide bombers on the loose would shock many people here.
“I think Malaysians will be surprised and a little disturbed by the news, but part of that is because the Malaysian police have always been very low key in their distribution of information about the threat of terrorism here in Malaysia,” said Noor.
Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein on Monday hinted at the threat of attacks, adding he and other Malaysian leaders were on an ISIL hit list. Hussein did not elaborate further.