Kuala Lumpur – Social media played a fundamental role in influencing a young Malaysian from Perak to join the war in Syria.
This was what he told a close childhood friend recently when he returned to his hometown for a brief family visit.
The friend, speaking to FMT on condition of anonymity, referred to the 25-year-old combatant only as Mohamad.
“From my conversations with him, it was clear that he learned about the war almost exclusively from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” said the intermediary. “That was how he developed such a passionate hatred of Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
“He told me there came a point when he felt he could no longer ignore his religious duty to join the jihad to end the daily slaughter of his Sunni brothers in Syria. He kept saying he was doing it all in the name of Islam.”
The source said Mohamad was secretive about a few things despite their close friendship.
“For instance, he would not answer when I asked whether any Sunni preacher on social media had a particular influence on him. Neither would he give details about his journey to Syria through Turkey or reveal much about other Malaysian jihadists in his group.
“But he spoke enthusiastically about his combat training in Aleppo.”
Mohamad is a fighter for an al-Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which sometimes refers to itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“Apparently the combat training was intensive and lasted several months,” said the source. “After they had gained some experience in handling weapons, he and fellow trainees had to guard the base camp when senior fighters were away seeking out the enemy.
“He told me he experienced combat several times when the camp came under attack by Bashar’s army.”
Born in wealth
Mohamad comes from a wealthy family. According to the source, his mother was devastated when she first learned that he was fighting in a war.
“Before he left for the first time, only a few close friends knew about it and some tried to discourage him. But he had made up his mind.
“He did not tell any member of his family. He knew that they, especially his mother, would have tried to prevent him from going. One of his friends broke the secret to her only when he was already in Aleppo. She was shocked, angry and deeply depressed.
“But I think she has now finally reconciled herself to the fact that her son is fighting for a cause he believes in.”
Malaysian police recently arrested 11 suspected jihadists in Selangor and Kedah. They said the suspects had received military training and were raising funds for attacks in Malaysia and other countries.
It is not clear whether the alleged plot involves recruitment of fighters for the Syrian war.
The sectarian war between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the Middle Eastern country broke out more than three years ago following a military crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Since then, according to Western intelligence sources, more than 100,000 people have been killed, millions forced out of their homes and entire towns reduced to rubble. – FMT