Over the weekend, Malaysian security forces conducted a third mass terror raid around the country’s capital. The move was just the latest in a series of such raids to boost the country’s readiness as it prepares for a major regional sporting tournament and the ruling party inches closer to an election expected to be held within months.
As I have written previously, with a recent series of terrorist attacks in European cities as well as closer to home in Indonesia and the southern Philippines, Malaysian officials have been taking a series of steps to tighten security ahead of the 29th iteration of the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) to be held on August 19 as well as independence celebrations on August 31 (See: “How Serious is the Islamic State Threat in Malaysia?”).
Though Malaysia has already been quite vigilant in response to the threat over the past few years, the level of alert has risen with concerns that Islamic State-linked suspects may be loose in the country after being deported from Turkey.
As part of this effort, the first of a series of large-scale raids targeting major cities and towns was launched on August 6 in a popular shopping district in the country’s capital known as Masjid India. Though the raid, dubbed Operation Joker, had netted 409 people, none of the 16 ISIS-linked individuals were found (See: “What’s Behind Malaysia’s Latest Mass Terror Raid?”).
The second raid was carried out in Cyberjaya on August 9, and nearly 300 people were initially apprehended.
On August 13, the third round of raids was conducted in Nilai 3, about ten kilometers from the country’s international airport. The three-hour operation saw 742 shops in the area checked by law enforcement agencies.
Special Branch Counterterrorism Division Chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told reporters that police had targeted that area because the large numbers of Pakistanis and Afghans made it a high probability location for suspected fighters of the so-called ISIS-K, the Khorasan chapter of ISIS, an area said to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with parts of other surrounding countries. He added that there was intelligence following the first raid that foreigners involved with ISIS-K had moved from Masjid India to Nilai 3.
Malaysian authorities said initially that around 350 people were picked up during this latest raid. Of these, four Pakistanis and a Malaysian caught with other foreigners’ passports and a sword in their possession would be detained for a prolonged period. The suspects were taken to Sepang district police headquarters for screening based on the Special Branch and Interpol databases, as has previously been the case. So far, no foreign terrorist fighters have been detected.