I.S. THREAT STILL PRESENT
Wanndy’s death will have little impact on movement in Malaysia
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.
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.