Many remain detained over suspected immigration violations, but police say none of the suspects had ties to terrorism
More than 400 foreigners from at least a dozen countries were arrested in Malaysia in what officials described as an anti-terrorism sweep ahead of a regional sporting competition scheduled for later this month.
After a sprawling operation on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, police detained 409 people, eventually releasing 275 and keeping 133 in detention on suspicion of immigration violations, Malaysia’s top anti-terror official told BenarNews.
The foreign workers hailed from countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, Oman, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, according to Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.
A Pakistani man is suspected of more serious charges related to passport forgery and other security offenses, Ayob told the Star Online. “We have our suspicions and are digging further into his background and cross-checking with foreign security agencies.”
The SEA Games, the region’s largest athletic event, is set to begin on August 19 and will draw thousands of athletes and tens of thousands of fans to the Malaysian capital.
The threat posed by Islamic militants in Southeast Asia has been heightened amid fierce fighting in the southern Philippines between IS-linked terrorists and the military.
Countries including Malaysia and Indonesia have ramped up regional cooperation to monitor suspected militants and stem the spread of radical ideology. In Indonesia, President Jokowi Widodo had taken the controversial step of giving himself the power to shut down organizations that are perceived as posing a threat to state security.
The weekend raids in Kuala Lumpur, which involved some 200 security personnel netted mostly Bangladeshis, was part of a search for 16 foreign militants that were deported from Turkey after attempting to join the Islamic State in the Middle East, according to the Straits Times.
Officials said none of those detained in what was called ‘Operation Joker’ had links to terrorists, and that none of the 16 militants had been caught, but they pledged to remain vigilant.
“The threats are imminent. We cannot be complacent, that’s why we are taking proactive measures,” Special Branch chief Mohamed Fuzi Harun told the Straits Times. “We want these militants to know that we’re coming for them and we’re coming down hard.”