Kuala Lumpur – Casual sympathisers of Malaysian terrorists fighting abroad have come under police radar.
Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division principal assistant director Datuk Ayub Khan Mydin Pitchay told the New Straits Times that as far as police were concerned, “sympathisers” communicating with Malaysian terrorists fighting abroad and supporting their cause could be categorised as being complicit with the terrorists.
“These militants, potential fighters and those supporting them are under the close watch of police.”
He said any individual who openly declared support for the fighters would be categorised as having links with the terrorists.
The more volatile flashpoints over the years have been in Syria, where anti-government forces are battling the military might of President Bashar al-Assad, and Iraq, with the emergence of the Islamic State (IS).
IS’ endgame is to establish an Islamic caliphate throughout the world. The group has demonstrated an uncanny understanding of social media, with the production of high-quality recruitment videos and by engaging would-be followers on a personal level.
Social media sites and apps, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, are among the platforms used by the sympathisers to communicate with the militants. Some of the militants’ Facebook pages have thousands of followers.
Sources said those engaging the militants would be placed in a watch list by the authorities. It is learnt that law enforcement agencies will open dossiers on such individuals and monitor their movements and communication.
Police have narrowed down on scores of individuals who have openly declared their support for IS and Malaysian terrorists fighting abroad.
Ayub said security forces were onto those communicating with and supporting Malaysian militants, especially those in Syria, through Facebook and WhatsApp.
“These militants, who call themselves ‘freedom fighters’, are terrorists because their actions could lead to acts of terrorism,” he said, adding that police were monitoring Malaysia’s exit points to stop potential terrorists from leaving the country.
A concern of law enforcement agencies is the potential for the militants to return to Malaysia and import their terrorism and combat know-how.
Unperturbed by the deaths of their Malaysian comrades, IS supporters have shown unwavering support for the men fighting the Assad regime.
Malaysians, as well as some supporters from Indonesia, who are keeping tabs on the fighting, seem to be hooked on the regular updates by their “heroes”’ exploits on the battlefield.
The support that the terrorists have garnered is evident in the thousands of “likes” and “shares” they receive for each post.
As some of the militants regularly post updates of their movements abroad, casual sympathisers also use social media to relay support, prayers, words of encouragement and sympathy over the deaths and injuries sustained by the terrorist groups.
A number of supporters have voiced interest in joining them.
“Macam mana nak ke sana ya? (How can I join?),” said a Facebook user.
The more radical sympathisers offer money to fund the fight.
“Rasa teruja untuk membantu. Dari segi kewangan macam mana? Bagaimana kami ingin bantu dari Malaysia? (I’m eager to help. Financially, how can I help from Malaysia?),” said another user.
On his Facebook account, a supporter said he hoped the Jalur Gemilang would be changed to the “Tauhid flag” in the future, with a photo of both flags accompanying the post.
The response to the militants’ Facebook posts is said to be overwhelming, with one militant having claimed that his inbox was flooded with messages from sympathisers, asking how they could be more involved in what they saw as an “act of martyrdom”.
A Malaysian militant fighting in Syria had apologised for not being able to approve all the “friend requests” he had received as Facebook allowed only 10 approvals per day.
These two accounts, belonging to those who had been killed in battle, have been deactivated.
Last Wednesday, at the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia had categorised IS as a terrorist group.
Barometer Institute analyst Robi Sugara told the NST that the likelihood of IS attacks on home soil would depend on how Indonesia and Malaysia tackled the issue.
“So far, IS does not pose a real threat to Indonesia or Malaysia in the short term. The real threat is if they (militants fighting in Syria) return home to Malaysia and Indonesia.
“That is potentially a very big threat,” said Sugara, adding that the main threat of IS was the radicalisation of their supporters.