Malaysia says it has thwarted planned attacks by IS sympathizers

(Photo: REUTERS / Muhammad Hamed)Iraqi Christians from Mosul, who fled from violence in their country, rest at the Latin Patriarchate Church in Amman August 21, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled their homes since the militant Islamic State group swept through much of the north and west of Iraq in June, threatening to break up the country.

Authorities in Malaysia say they have thwarted an attempt by sympathizers of the extremist group Islamic State in the country to mount bombings and similar attacks in the southeast Asian nation.

Police arrested 19 suspected radical Islamic militants, whose ages ranged from 20 to 50, from April to June, an official of the country's counterterrorism division has said, The Star Online reported August 19.

The suspects purportedly plotted to bomb pubs and discotheques, as well as the local brewer of Carlsberg lager, said Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy head of the Malaysian counterterrorism agency.

Ayob Khan said they planned "a campaign of violence and armed struggle and to die as martyrs," AFP reported. He said police believe there could still be co-plotters at large in Malaysia.

Of the 19 suspects, seven were charged with crimes ranging from fostering terrorism to possession of home-made rifles.

The group, who were all Malaysian nationals, sought to set up an Islamic caliphate similar to that in northern Iraq where IS has seized control of large parts of Iraqi.

The Islamic caliphate would have encompassed major parts of Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, Khan said.

Counterterrorism agents accosted some of the suspects at airports as they made their way to Turkey and Syria where they would apparently have been trained to carry out attacks, the official disclosed.

The plotters were composed of professionals and two housewives who were in the initial stages of discussions with IS members as to how to carry out the attacks.

The suspects had yet to gain knowledge on making bombs or possess heavy weapons, Khan said.

"From interrogating them, they talk about ISIS ideology, including the killing of innocent people and also Muslims who are not in their group," he said.

Despite the arrests, Khan believes there are still plotters in the country. His agency suspects that some 40 Malaysia managed to slip out to Syria to join the fighting there.

Malaysia practices moderate Islam and no significant terror attacks have happened in the country in recent. But hardline Islamists have started to gain ground there.

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