KUALA LUMPUR: INTELLIGENCE reports indicate that no fewer than 30 Malaysians have arrived in Iraq and Syria to join militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Syam (ISIS), and aid the latter in battles aimed at establishing an Islamic state there.

It was learnt that the “mujahidin” groups have been recruiting Malaysians via social media, as well as through small religious discussion groups (usrah) since several years ago.

Worryingly, the trend shows no sign of abating. Sources said scores of other Malaysians were also planning to enlist and aid the group, which is advancing towards the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and involved in heavy gunfights against forces loyal to the Baath government in Syria.

These include 15 people, who were recently arrested by the Special Branch’s Counter-Terrorism Department (SB-CTD).

“Based on surveillance and information gathered, police found that ISIS’s recruitment drive here had revolved around two methods — the use of social media and usrah sessions.

“The recruiting exercises were conducted by ISIS members here, led by two of the 15 suspects whom SB-CTD had picked up in connection with Isis-related activities.”

It was learnt that the chief reason behind the Malaysian recruits’ interest in adopting ISIS’s cause was because they viewed it as protecting and liberating Sunni Muslims from oppression.

A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the determination of those willing to join ISIS’s cause was so high that they were willing to dispose of their properties to fund their struggles.

“Some of the Malaysians who joined ISIS’s battles were also known to have been killed in action, while many have stayed there to continue fighting.”

This includes Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, a 26-year-old factory worker regarded as the first Malaysian suicide bomber.

Reports stated that Ahmad Tarmimi died in a suicide bombing attack against Iraq military’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) headquarters in Al-Anbar on May 26, which killed 25 elite Iraqi soldiers.

In their latest counter-terrorism operation, a team of SB-CTD operatives had, on Friday, arrested three men, aged between 29 and 31, including a Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) sailor, in Sandakan, Sabah.

The suspects, one of whom is allegedly a senior member of a militant group who had recently undergone military training at an Abu Sayyaf camp in the Philippines, were detained to facilitate investigations into ISIS-related activities.

The Malaysian Armed Forces, meanwhile, will initiate their own internal investigation into the RMN officer.

Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said RMN would take over the investigation once the police completed their probe.

“The case is under police investigation. We will conduct our internal investigation once we receive the full report from the police,” he said after opening the Armed Forces cooperative annual general meeting at the Sungai Buloh Army Camp here yesterday.

RMN chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar had, on Sunday, said the navy would extend its cooperation to the police on the matter.

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