KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian police said Monday they have detained four men who were planning to assassinate “’high-profile targets” and bomb places of worship and entertainment centers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
National police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said a 34-year-old Malaysian who was the alleged mastermind, an Indonesian and two ethnic Rohingya Muslims were caught in raids last week. Police also seized a pistol and six homemade explosives.
He said they were members of a small cell allied with the Islamic State group and wanted to avenge a Muslim firefighter who died during riots over the relocation of an Indian temple last November. He said they had planned to attack entertainment outlets and churches, Hindu and Buddhist temples around Kuala Lumpur during the first week of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
He declined to name the suspects but said they had accused the alleged targets of insulting Islam or failing to defend Muslim rights.
Abdul Hamid said one of the Rohingya, a 20-year-old waiter, is registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and a supporter of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgent group. He said the waiter was also planning to attack the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Myanmar’s military launched a brutal campaign against Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine in response to attacks by the insurgent group on security outposts in August 2017. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Police are looking for two other Malaysians and an Indonesian who are part of the cell, Abdul Hamid added.
Malaysia has been battling to curb the influence of militant cells aligned with the Islamic State group. Some Malaysians have traveled to Middle East in recent years to fight with IS, often passing through Turkey. Hundreds of people suspected of having ties to IS have been detained in Malaysia in recent years.
The Associated Press