KUALA LUMPUR: Terror plots from Indonesia to Singapore, including a 2016 plan to launch a rocket attack on Singapore's Marina Bay Sands, were all linked to one Indonesian computer expert who recruited and masterminded attacks in both countries.
It is now revealed that Bahrum Naim, 34, an Indonesian Islamic State (IS) leader in Syria who was a master online recruiter and bomb-making instructor, was also behind the recruitment of at least 26 Malaysians into the terror group.
According to the Royal Malaysian Police intelligence agency, Special Branch, the 26 men belonged to a cell that plotted a series of terror attacks on churches, temples and entertainment spots in Johor, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.
“Bahrum recruited Malaysian citizens to go to Syria. The group was called Malhama Qubra,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, head of Special Branch counter-terrorism division, told Channel NewsAsia.
Regional security sources told Channel NewsAsia earlier that Bahrum was killed in a US drone strike in Syria sometime before Ramadan.
“He (Bahrum) also ordered the subjects (members) to launch attacks in Malaysia before going to Syria. The reason for that is to take revenge against the police for arresting supporters of Daesh,” said Ayob, referring to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym.
“We (police) managed to arrest 26 members of Malhama Qubra in a big operation between 22 and 28 January 2016 in Kedah, Selangor, Pahang and Kuala Lumpur, including three who were expelled by Turkey authorities for trying to slip into Syria,” said Ayob.
According to Ayob, the IS-linked Malhama Qubra plotted to bomb a Chinese temple and a church in Tampoi, Johor in conjunction with Christmas celebrations at the end of 2015.
“They were also planning to attack (Hindu) temples in Johor and Klang Valley, a casino in Genting Highland and the Guinness Anchor factory in Selangor,” said Ayob.
Bahrum was known to have taught his recruits to assemble bombs by uploading bomb-making manuals on Telegram channels.
According to Ayob, the leader of Malhama Qubra learnt how to assemble crude bombs from Bahrum’s manuals.
“But we managed to foil and pre-empt their activities,” said Ayob.
Bahrum communicated constantly with the leader of Malhama Qubra who would then pass on his messages to other members, according to Ayob.
“Bahrum communicated with Malhama Qubra’s leader via Whatsapp, Facebook and Telegram as the applications were deemed as safe and an easy way to spread (IS propaganda) quickly and widely,” said Ayob.
“He (Bahrum) only communicated with the leader of the group as he was seen as someone he could trust and who was loyal to their struggle,” said Ayob.
Bahrum was also a good friend of a prominent Malaysian IS member in Syria called Muhammad Wanndy who was killed in 2017, Ayob added.
Bahrum’s propaganda is so effective that he managed to recruit two Indonesian maids to become suicide bombers.
He is known to be a major source of funding for terror attacks and activities in Indonesia, including the 2016 suicide bombing and shooting at a Starbucks cafe in Jakarta which killed four civilians and injured more than 20 people.