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No militant training camps in Malaysia: police chief

Malaysia's police chief has denied that there are training camps in the country for Islamic militants.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's police chief has denied that there are training camps in the country for Islamic militants.

Police are investigating the identities of 15 people who reportedly were killed while fighting in Iraq and Syria.

This comes as photos and videos continue to emerge online of alleged young Malaysian militants in the Middle East.

Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has appealed to them to lay down their arms and return to Malaysia.

Malaysia is verifying reports that 15 of its men were militants linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL group and who were killed in an armed conflict.

This comes after more photos including selfies and video clips of their activities in the Middle East surfaced on the internet.

Among the prominent figures was the former state information chief of PAS, the opposition Islamic party.

Trained in Pakistan, Ustaz Mohd Lotfi Ariffin was a religious scholar .

He was detained for six years under the internal security law in 2001 and had reportedly fought in Afghanistan.

Another prominent figure was a former drummer of a Malay rock band, Akil Ukays.

Both were reportedly recruited by the ISIS-linked Al Nusra front in Syria before being sent to Iraq to join the other Sunni jihadist militants.

Despite these reports, Malaysia's police chief has denied that the country is being used as a base to train Islamic militants.

Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police, said: "There is no militant training camp here. We are exchanging information with our counterparts from all over the world."

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin warned that these men were being used as promotional tools by ISIS militants in their international recruitment drive.

He urged them to lay down their arms immediately and return home.

"We like them to come back. This is not our war and this is not the right war," he said.

Some of these militants had joined the jihad after being attracted to radical religious ideas.

"My hope for them is that they realise that this is wrong. It's wrong ethically. It's wrong religiously and it's not something that's worth pursuing," said Khairy.

The police counter-terrorism unit is also keeping close tabs on militant websites and blogs.

It is working with external providers to block or shut down some of them.

But analysts said that alone is not going to stop the militants in their tracks

Keith Leong, research associate at KRA Group, said: "It's hard to control the social media...censorship is not an option as well. It's primarily a war of ideas and that's the only way you can really win."

Although the police chief denied the country is being used as a militant training camp, the US State Department had said in its 2013 country report on terrorism that Malaysia remains vulnerable to terror-related activities.

The report warns that Malaysia is being used as a transit and meeting site for militants.

So while raising public awareness and educating the youth is key to prevent them from being radicalised online, Malaysia must also step up border and immigration checks to stop militant infiltration.

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