KUALA LUMPUR: Seven suspected terrorists have been arrested in Johor and Sabah, said Malaysian police on Saturday (Mar 24).
Six of them, Malaysians from an Islamic State cell, were arrested in Johor for allegedly planning attacks on non-Muslim places of worship and plotting to kill police personnel, while an Abu Sayyaf member was detained in Sabah, said the police in a statement.
The men were arrested in multiple operations between Feb 27 and Mar 15.
In the first operation, police arrested a 37-year-old man believed to be the mastermind of the planned attacks on places of worship in Johor Bahru. He also actively recruited new militants, said Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.
"The second suspect is a 49-year-old security guard and adviser to the terror cell," he said, adding that the suspect was in charge of ensuring cell members kept their activities secret. He also gave orders to kill any member who leaked secrets.
The third suspect was a 30-year-old security guard who was tasked with acquiring firearms from another country. He also scouted several places of worship across Johor Bahru.
The suspects planned to escape to a neighbouring country to seek refuge with another terror group after carrying out their attacks, said the police chief, without naming the country.
Three other members of the same cell were arrested in follow-up operations.
One of them was a 25-year-old waiter who had been ordered to kidnap and kill police personnel.
Two other suspects, aged 23 and 22, were arrested on Mar 1 and were working as janitors in Singapore. One of them acted as the intermediary in the purchase of firearms for the cell.
As for the Abu Sayyaf member who was arrested on Mar 15, he is said to be a trusted lieutenant to group leader Furuji Indama and has links to Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad.
The Filipino man, who is wanted by the Philippines for his involvement in a a kidnap-for-ransom syndicate, is also an expert in making improvised explosive devices.
The police chief added that the suspect had planned to carry out several attacks in Sabah and was responsible for making the state a safe haven for terror groups from the Philippines.