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The truth about Nigerian terrorists in Malaysia

Bendahara’s report was based on the pronouncement of the Chairman of the Gerekan Mansuhkan ISA, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh. Syed Ibrahim claimed that 50 people,…

Bendahara’s report was based on the pronouncement of the Chairman of the Gerekan Mansuhkan ISA, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh. Syed Ibrahim claimed that 50 people, including some Malaysians, who have been Malaysian dwellers since 2003 were picked up on the 21st January, 2010, under the ISA. (The Malaysian Insider, 28 January, 2010).

Syed Ibrahim further announced that 14 people out the 50 earlier arrested were detained under the ISA. He was able to identify nine of the fourteen detainees as: Azzahari Murad (Malaysia); Aiman Al Dakkak (Syria); Mohamed Hozifa (Syria); Kutiba Al-Issa (Syria); Khalid Salem (Yemen); Luqman Abdul Salam (Nigeria); Hassan Barudi (Syria); Hussam Khalid (Jordan); and Abdul Alhi Bolajoko Uthman (Nigeria). (The Malaysian Insider, 28 January, 2010).

In his reaction to this matter, Datu Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian Home Affairs Minister, said those arrested were nine foreigners who had just arrived Malaysia when they were caught.  (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010). When Hishammuddin’s account is crossed examined with that of the Chairman of the Gerekan Mansuhkan ISA, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, evident contradictions would be observed.

The first inconsistency is that unlike Syed Ibrahim, Hishammuddin claimed that it was only foreigners that were arrested. This leaves much to be desired as further analysis would suggest that the Malaysian government may be playing racial and alarmist card.

The second discrepancy is that while Hishammuddin claimed those arrested recently arrived Malaysia, Syed Ibrahim reported that they arrived in 2003. Investigated reports show that Syed Ibrahim got it right to a reasonable extent. Some of them arrived Malaysia as earlier as 2000 and are still legal residents.

Hishammuddin who was somewhat sure of his fact went as far as challenging Syed Ibrahim’s claim. A government controlled newspaper confirmed this by stating that, “he rubbished reports claiming there were 50 people arrested under the ISA last week and that 38 of them were released the following day,” (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

To validate its claim, Hishammuddin was quoted by New Strait Times as saying, “this is not true. We were working with other international anti-terrorism agencies and nabbed the 10 suspects who are on the international wanted list.” (28 January, 2010).

However, independent investigated reports show that some of those arrested and detained arrived Malaysia before 2003. The Syrian teacher, Aiman Al Dakkak, who was conducting the religious classes has just completed his doctorate in hadith, in the prestigious University of Malaya, (UM). It was further learnt that those who were arrested with him were once his colleagues at the International Islamic University Malaysia, (IIUM), where Aiman earlier began his studies.

However, Aiman is said to have even been one of those who were conducting weekly devotional talks at the IIUM main mosque. The permission to do this is often issued by the IIUM management. There is no report which linked any of the sessions he conducted to radicalism.

Others who attended Aiman’s talk which he conducted in one of the IIUM muhalla (Hostel) mosque during the recently concluded Ramadan remarked that he preached against terrorism. He was reported to have even prayed against Osama bin Laden and his group. Aiman is also reported to have been involved in providing some humanitarian services to some local residents who are leaving in Kampung, that is, villagers.

If Aiman and those students have been on the wanted list as claimed by Hishammuddin, why is it that they have not been nabbed before now since Aiman’s and his cohorts’ coactivities have been a public thing?

Another question is, if the names of those arrested and detained under the ISA were sourced through shared intelligence reports, would it not be proper to name the sources of such reports?

Again, since the acclaimed intelligence reports indicted those detained as threats, why is it that the activities which so make them to be one are not made known to the public?

If this intelligence report is not fabricated, why has Hishammuddin and the Malaysian Government refused to furnish representatives of the countries of those detained with details of these intelligence reports?

One is struck that unlike other news coverage on counter terrorism, the international sources from which Malaysia obtained its intelligence tips are yet to acknowledge that those detained are on their wanted list.

To make their claim to be real, the Malaysian government stated that the intelligence tips also established that those arrested were members of a religious group linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The screaming headline under which this was reported-“10 Terror Suspects held: Tip-off Links them to Nigerian Underwear Bomber” is a food for thought. (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

This claim is ridiculous because to have linked those arrested with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a superficial way of earning a false claim a measure of authenticity. How are they linked? Is it because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian as were two of the detainees? Is it because Aiman is a Syrian or what else could be the basis?

According to the report of a villager who was interviewed, “the foreigners who rented two houses there were quite and peaceful people. They were always clad in jubbah and rarely went out during the day.” Another villager was reported to have said, “I knew something was not right when two weeks ago, two strangers came and stayed at the house. They stood out from the rest as the two wore normal clothes. One of them was in his 60s and had a long, white beard, while the other in his 30s was very unfriendly.” (New Strait Times, 29 January, 2010).  

The last part of one of these villagers’ testimony provides the hint on what has been presented as international intelligence tip off. It is possible that the man who observed one of the residents to be unfriendly could have hinted other locals of his observation. Then, to foreigners who are conversant with the Malaysian disposition to perceived threat, police report is the expected next step. This is most probable what was relied upon by the Malaysian authority, which later on began to brag that they have busted the activities of a budding terrorist group.

The Nigerian government and the international community must swing into action by launching a high-powered investigation into this matter. A special delegation should be dispatched to Malaysia to verify what have been reported.

 John is a researcher and can be reached through [email protected]

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