World

M'sia to deploy 40,000 officers over Hari Raya period

Malaysia places army on high alert after ISIS declares Ramadan an ideal time for attacks

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has placed its security forces on high alert after militant groups declared the Muslim fasting month an ideal time to carry out more attacks, the country's police chief said yesterday.

Malaysia has cancelled festive leave for all policemen during the upcoming Hari Raya Puasa period, and will deploy 40,000 officers around the country - several thousand more than in previous years, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted as saying by The Malay Mail Online news site yesterday.

The country's armed forces are also on standby in east Sabah at the border with the Philippines, and along Malaysia's border with southern Thailand, he said.

Last year, only 10 per cent of the armed forces - who are mostly Malay-Muslims - were allowed to go on festive leave.

Mr Khalid said the militants' extremist beliefs have driven them to declare Ramadan, viewed as the holiest month by Muslims, as an ideal time to carry out more attacks to maim and kill people.

"They believe they are set to receive more heavenly rewards for carrying out these attacks during Ramadan," he said, as quoted by the website.

"(Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) thinks that Ramadan is a good month for them to carry out their so-called jihad attacks, so we must be alert."

The Hari Raya Puasa celebration, starting at the end of this month, is the biggest festive period for the Muslim-majority country, which has a population of about 32 million.

(ISIS) thinks that Ramadan is a good month for them to carry out their so-called jihad attacks, so we must be alert. Malaysian inspector-general of Police Khalid Abu Bakar

Millions of Malaysians typically return to their home towns a few days before Hari Raya Puasa, packing bus and train stations.

All the highways out of the big cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, would be jam-packed with vehicles.

Hari Raya Puasa falls on June 25 this year, marking the end of the fasting month.

Mr Khalid said the police are staying vigilant against the militants.

"We are on constant alert to look out for possible threats.

'MORE VIGILANT'

"Police now need to be more vigilant in tackling these militants, and we will not be lenient in our preparation and enforcement," he said.

South-east Asia's third-biggest economy suffered its first attack by ISIS last year when two men on a motorcycle lobbed a grenade into a nightclub in Puchong, Selangor, injuring eight people.

The police have arrested three men connected with ISIS' only successful attack in Malaysia, and the courts have jailed two of them.

Malaysia arrested more than 250 people between 2013 and last year for suspected militant activities linked to ISIS, and foiled several plots to carry out local attacks.

Its police last week busted an ISIS cell consisting of half a dozen men who have been smuggling weapons into the country from Thailand.

Mr Khalid said the counter-terrorism unit of the police force is to be upgraded, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi last week.

Mr Zahid said the unit, which is part of the police's Special Branch, would become a division and be headed by a senior police officer. 
- THE STRAITS TIMES

malaysiaterrorismISIS