I.S. THREAT STILL PRESENT

Wan­ndy’s death will have lit­tle im­pact on move­ment in Malaysia

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

RE­CENTLY, the New Straits Times broke the news that Muham­mad Wan­ndy Mo­hamed Jedi, the leader of Malaysian Is­lamic State (IS) mil­i­tants in Syria, had been killed in a drone at­tack in that war-torn coun­try.

Po­lice at the time had known about the news, but were scep­ti­cal due to sev­eral things, in­clud­ing what they saw as some dif­fer­ences in the style of writ­ing in the “an­nounce­ment” of his death made by his 28-year-old wife Nor Mah­mu­dah Ah­mad.

They feared that Wan­ndy had faked his death, so that he would no more be un­der close “watch” and would be able to travel a lit­tle more freely, pre­sum­ably un­der an alias.

Not too long af­ter that, how­ever, In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of Po­lice Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said in­tel­li­gence re­ports had con­firmed that Wan­ndy had been killed in an at­tack on IS forces in Raqqa, Syria, on April 29.

Wan­ndy, who used the nom de guerre Abu Hamzah Al-Fateh in Syria, was a much-wanted man among Malaysian counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tives, of course, though he re­mained un­touch­able so long as he re­mained in Syria. But he was also wanted in­ter­na­tion­ally. The United States, in fact, had put him on its Spe­cially Des­ig­nated Global Ter­ror­ist list in March, mak­ing him a high-pro­file tar­get for law en­force­ment agen­cies world­wide.

De­spite be­ing in Syria, he called the shots here in Malaysia. He ac­tively re­cruited new mem­bers, over­saw fi­nan­cial sourc­ing and ar­ranged for some would-be mil­i­tants to travel to Syria, mostly via Ankara. He also planned and co­or­di­nated at­tempts to at­tack Malaysian tar­gets. With the ex­cep­tion of one — the gre­nade at­tack on the Movida nightspot in Pu­chong last year — all were thwarted by Spe­cial Branch Counter-Ter­ror­ism Divi­sion op­er­a­tives.

But does Wan­ndy’s death mean that Malaysians, and Malaysian se­cu­rity forces, can now rest easy? Is the threat level now lower than be­fore? Counter-ter­ror­ism ex­perts say no, and rightly so.

Two of these ex­perts told this pa­per re­cently that, while it was good news in­deed for the counter-ter­ror­ism com­mu­nity and Malaysia as a whole, Wan­ndy’s death would have lit­tle im­pact on the move­ment and ac­tiv­i­ties of IS sym­pa­this­ers and mem­bers here.

An­drin Raj, how­ever, dis­pelled fears of pos­si­ble re­tal­i­a­tion in Malaysia, con­sid­er­ing it was not this coun­try which killed the man.

The ex­perts be­lieve, though, that there would soon be some­one to re­place Wan­ndy. It is not known whether Wan­ndy had any sort of plan in place for some­one to re­place him should he be killed. But there would be no short­age of can­di­dates, con­sid­er­ing there are quite a num­ber of Malaysians in Syria fight­ing for the ter­ror group.

The other noted ex­pert on counter-ter­ror­ism is­sues, Ah­mad El-Muham­mady, in fact, said there were a num­ber of peo­ple who are seen to be able to re­place Wan­ndy. One name he men­tioned was Akel Zainal, who was for­merly the drum­mer for nowde­funct 1990s rock band, the Ukays.

So while Wan­ndy’s death may have left a vac­uum, it is none­the­less one which is only tem­po­rary at best. There may be some dis­rup­tion to IS ac­tiv­i­ties here, but this will last only a short while, if at all.

Se­cu­rity forces and coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tives will have to keep up their vig­i­lance as there will be those who will con­tinue Wan­ndy’s work here. In the first quar­ter of this year alone more than 30 peo­ple have been de­tained on sus­pi­cion of be­ing in­volved in IS ac­tiv­i­ties. You can bet your bot­tom ring­git there will be more ar­rests.

There are IS mil­i­tants who are still re­cruit­ing Malaysians, es­pe­cially youths, through so­cial me­dia, and there are prob­a­bly those here who are do­ing this face-to­face.

All in­di­ca­tions are that coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tives are still go­ing about their work. They know the threat is still there, still very much real. In fact, just two days ago Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Home Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi an­nounced the for­mu­la­tion of the KL2017 An­tiTer­ror­ism Task Force, to be led by the Fed­eral po­lice In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity and Pub­lic Or­der direc­tor, with the armed forces head­quar­ters chief of staff as his deputy.

The task force’s main role will be to in­crease the col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion with min­istries, agen­cies and de­part­ments to en­sure that the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games later this year run smoothly in terms of pre­ven­tion of pos­si­ble se­cu­rity threats, cri­sis man­age­ment should some­thing hap­pen and re­cov­ery fol­low­ing any pos­si­ble at­tack.

It is a smart move, con­sid­er­ing that such a high-level event would be a prime tar­get for any­one in­tend­ing to carry out a ter­ror at­tack. And added se­cu­rity mea­sures mean peo­ple can at­tend the events with­out hav­ing to worry.

Let us hope, how­ever, that heav­ier se­cu­rity mea­sures don’t add up to a larger num­ber of com­plaints, as some peo­ple are wont to do when they are in­con­ve­nienced, even if it’s for their own safety.

lesliea@nst.com.my

The writer has more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence, much of which has been spent writ­ing about crime and the mil­i­tary. A die-hard Red Devil, he can usu­ally be found wear­ing a Manchester United jersey when out­side of work

It is not known whether Wan­ndy had any sort of plan in place for some­one to re­place him should he be killed. But there would be no short­age of can­di­dates, con­sid­er­ing there are quite a num­ber of Malaysians in Syria fight­ing for the ter­ror group.

In­tel­li­gence re­ports con­firm that Muham­mad Wan­ndy Mo­hamed Jedi was killed in an at­tack in Raqqa, Syria, on April 29.

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