KUALA LUMPUR: At least 30 foreign militants or individuals of “high risk”, who failed to enter Syria and fight with the Islamic State (IS), are walking the nation’s streets as tourists.
They were detained by authorities in Turkey enroute to Syria and “dumped” in Malaysia. Their travel documents say they are tourists.
Apparently they were given an option to be deported to their port of origin or go to Malaysia, according to a report in the New Straits Times (NST). They chose to come here, mainly because Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation.
Also, the NST quoted a source as saying, it had even become the practice for some countries to assist unwanted individuals – included some deemed “dangerous” – to obtain travel documents to enter Malaysia as tourists.
The report said Malaysia had become the “unwitting” receiver of foreign fighters who were stopped from entering Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State.
The NST was told that these individuals, including some flagged as “high risk”, had earlier been detained at airports in several countries for their “potential risk to national security”.
Local intelligence operatives have managed to trace 28 of these foreigners, according to the NST report.
“We don’t know who exactly they are, but they were not supposed to be sent to Malaysia.
“The normal procedure is, for example, if you had flown from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and were arrested in Jakarta, the authorities must deport you to Singapore as that was the last point of disembarkation, not Kuala Lumpur,” a source told the NST.
The source revealed that many of these foreigners had departed from all parts of the world — Dubai, Singapore, Indonesia — before being arrested in Istanbul, Turkey. Instead of being deported to their last port of disembarkation, they were given the “option” to be deported to Malaysia.
“We have become a dumping ground and this is likely because, not only are we a visa-free nation to visit for many countries, we are also a Muslim nation,” the source was quoted as saying.
Another problem plaguing police is that some countries that want to be rid of unwanted individuals, including extremist-minded persons, were assisting them to obtain travel documents so that they could enter Malaysia as tourists.
The source was quoted as saying: “Worst still, these individuals, whose plans to join IS were thwarted, are now in the country and have stayed off the radar.
“There were several instances where they did alert the Malaysian authorities of such ‘deportations’ but it would be well after these individuals had entered the country. It is not easy for the police to trace them.”
Some of those who had been allowed to travel to Malaysia as tourists had been labelled by intelligence agencies of the origin countries as “dangerous”.
The police, said the source, had managed to trace and deport some of them but others were still roaming free.
The NST said it had learned that an informal objection had been lodged with one of the countries known to have frequently deported foreign nationals they arrested for security reasons to Malaysia.
The NST quoted Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-terrorism Division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay as saying these individuals posed a significant risk to national security.
“This trend is extremely dangerous since we know that these people were denied entry into these countries because they had wanted to join the IS.
“So, there is always the possibility that they would look for a chance to plan an attack here since their aim to go to Syria had been foiled.
“This is why it is important for these foreign authorities to inform us before they deport anyone to our country,” he added.
Ayob said to date, 11 Malaysians had been among those deported from Turkey for attempting to sneak into Syria to join the IS.
-Free Malaysia Today