Malaysian police said Tuesday they had foiled a “terror plot” to disrupt last month’s Southeast Asian Games and the country’s independence day celebrations and arrested 19 suspects including 11 foreigners.
The new national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the arrests were made during a series of raids across the country in July and August.
As well as eight Malaysians there were one Bangladeshi, two from the Maldives, three from Iraq, a Palestinian, two Indonesians and two Filipinos, he said in a statement.
“Between July 4-Aug 30, the (police) Special Branch counter terrorism division has launched operation in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Kelantan and Johor to thwart terror plot to disrupt the 2017 SEA Games and the 60th National Day celebration,” Fuzi said.
He said one of those arrested, a 25-year-old Filipino belonging to the Abu Sayyaf militant group operating in the southern Philippines, planned to launch an attack at the Games’ closing ceremony.
The suspect, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Filipinos and the killing of a Christian hostage in the southern Philippines in 2010, had sneaked into the Malaysian town of Sandakan on Borneo island before making his way to Kuala Lumpur in December 2015, according to Fuzi.
The two-week SEA Games ended with a glittering closing ceremony on August 30 at the Bukit Jalil Stadium outside the capital Kuala Lumpur. It was attended by Prime Minister Najib Razak and senior government ministers.
Independence Day celebrations were held the next day at a central square in the capital.
Fuzi said all the suspects were being held under a tough anti-terrorism law that allows for detention of up to 28 days without trial.
Their identity was not disclosed and the statement did not say if any weapons or explosives were recovered from them.
Mainly Muslim Malaysia has not suffered a major terror attack in recent years, unlike its larger neighbour Indonesia.
A total of 989 people were arrested under the country’s anti-terrorism law between 2012 and April 2017, acccording to Nur Jazlan Mohamad, the deputy home minister in charge of internal security.