World News

Malaysia frees man believed to have 9/11 links

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has released five men held under suspicion of terrorism, including one believed to be linked to the September 11 attacks in the United States, the country’s minister in charge of security said on Wednesday.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said a man linked to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant network had been freed on December 4 along with two from a Thai separatist group and two Malaysians suspected of working for foreign intelligence groups.

Syed told reporters at parliament he believed Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, who police suspected had provided lodging for two of the men who carried out the September 11, 2001 suicide airliner attacks in the United States, was among them.

A Malaysian security source confirmed that Yazid, who was arrested in December 2001, had been set free.

“They are no longer a threat but they will be watched closely,” Syed said.

The Singapore Straits Times reported earlier that as many as a dozen people linked to JI had been released following internment under Malaysia’s tough Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Yazid had set up a pathology laboratory in Malaysia after graduating from California State University in Sacramento in 1987 with a degree in biochemistry.

JI has been blamed for a series of bombing attacks around Southeast Asia in recent years, including the nightclub attacks in Bali, Indonesia that killed 202 people in October 2002.

Indonesia last month executed three men convicted in those attacks, raising fears of possible reprisal attacks.

JI has been quiet lately, after an elite Indonesian force began rounding up members and killing one of its top leaders. The group’s tactics have also been criticised by Muslims in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, who say their attacks have killed many Muslims and damaged the image of Islam.

Reporting by Soo Ai Peng and Julie Goh; Writing by David Chance and Bill Tarrant; Editing by Dean Yates