The Malaysian security authorities have identified four new terror groups bent on creating a “super” Islamic caliphate to rule parts of South-east Asia, including secular Singapore.
The four organisations, identified only by their acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are believed to be operating from states such as Selangor and Perak, the New Straits Times (NST) reported yesterday.
Intelligence sources cited by the NST said the groups are permutations of earlier terror cells such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, and are responsible for sending a number of Malaysians to join jihadist groups in Syria after some basic training in southern Thailand and with the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group.
The four outfits currently operate independently of one another but sources said they subscribe to the same “salafi” Jihadi ideology, similar to extremist groups Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has been gaining swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq in its quest to set up a mediaeval-style Islamic caliphate.
The ambitious Islamic state that the four Malaysian groups envision is called the Daulah Islamiah Nusantara and covers Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and southern Philippines.
At the main Abu Sayyaf training facility, Camp Hudaibiyah, recruits from these groups learn about urban warfare and pick up skills in making explosive devices, among other things.
According to sources, leaders and senior members of these groups have strong links with similar groups that are active in areas such as southern Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, as well as the Abu Sayyaf and ISIS.
The authorities fear these groups may eventually cooperate to achieve their dream state.
“We are also looking at Syria and Iraq as a petri dish for local militants to establish international contacts and propagate their goals, not only in their respective countries but in the region as a whole,” said a high-ranking intelligence officer, according to the NST.
“Those countries (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are real battlegrounds, unlike the basic training they went for in the southern Philippines or in other training camps,” the officer added.
The new Malaysian cells are financially sustained by strong local backers, including businessmen and professionals.
The BKAW was reportedly recruiting members through Facebook and rallies. One of its members is said to be ISIS-linked Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, a 26-year-old factory worker who killed 25 soldiers in a suicide attack in Iraq on May 26.
The Dimzia, said to have been established earlier this year, is a splinter group of the BAJ. The NST’s sources said that while the leader of Dimzia has been taken by the authorities, its members have kept the group active.
The ADI may be barely a year old, but it is said to have strong links with foreign militant groups, including Indonesia’s Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, checkpoints placed strategically across Metro Manila has gone up from nearly 40 checkpoints to over 100 for fear of a spillover of a security threat in southern island Mindanao’s Davao City that placed security officials on full alert last weekend, the GMA News reported.
Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said yesterday that the threat in Mindanao is a plot hatched by one or two extremists to bomb a crowded target.
“It’s a bomb, terrorism. This is not a conventional threat posed by several men in uniforms, firing with their long firearms,” Mr Roxas said in a hastily called news briefing.
A senior intelligence officer also added:
We are also looking at Syria and Iraq as a petri dish for local militants to establish international contacts and propagate their goals, not only in their respective countries but in the region as a whole. Those countries (Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are real battlegrounds, unlike the basic training they went for in the southern Philippines or in other training camps.