Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday that he will take every step to keep Malaysians safe in the face of mounting threats from armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Najib told an international conference of ministers and anti-terrorism officials that he would “not allow Malaysia to be open to infiltration”.
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The Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism comes just 11 days after a deadly attack in Jakarta, Indonesia, which killed eight people – including the four attackers – and as concerns grow over the spread ISIL’s ideology across Southeast Asia.
Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who heads the Malaysian police’s counterterrorism unit, told Al Jazeera it was impossible to prevent every possible attack.
“No enforcement agency can provide a 100 percent guarantee that such an attack will never take place,” he said.
Since February last year, police foiled seven plots but attacks could only be stopped with excellent intelligence gathering and pre-emptive operations, he said.
Hundreds of Malaysians are feared to have travelled to Syria to fight with ISIL. Of the 72 positively identified, eight have returned to the country.
On Sunday, police said a suspected seven-member ISIL cell had been arrested in a three-day operation carried out across the country.
The suspects had allegedly received instructions to carry out attacks in Malaysia by Syria-based ISIL members, including the Indonesian Bahrun Naim, named as the mastermind of the Jakarta attacks.
Police said the suspects were also given orders by Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, a known Malaysian ISIL recruiter, who had been linked to a beheading video in Syria.
Sidney Jones, a security analyst, told Al Jazeera that ISIL is eager to garner headlines.
“We’ve seen one attack now in Jakarta – fortunately not very professional and fortunately not as many people killed as it was clear the terrorists hoped – but massive publicity and I think we need to understand that it’s that publicity that turns the failure into a success,” said Jones.
Local media reported the Malaysian and Indonesian branch of ISIL, known as Katibah Nusantara, had released a video on an ISIL-sanctioned website in the Malay language threatening revenge for the capture of its members.
Najib told the conference that there was nothing Islamic about “terrorism”.
“These groups blaspheme against a religion of peace, tolerance and understanding,” he said.
But Najib conceded that ISIL had “appeal and reach”.
“Many of those who have joined are idealistic young men and women who have been cruelly deceived by recruiters who pretend to be their friends,” said the prime minister.
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