Malaysia detains three accused of planning attacks, links to IS

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has detained three men on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State militant group and planning attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, police said on Thursday.

Authorities have been on high alert and made hundreds of arrests in Malaysia since gunmen allied with the Islamic State carried out a series of attacks in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in 2016.

A 34-year-old Indonesian member of an Islamic State-linked cell was arrested in Selangor state on Tuesday, police said.

“The suspect is believed to have been radicalized after being exposed to Islamic State teachings while in prison for five years in Surabaya, Indonesia,” Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said in a statement.

Four other cell members were detained on Monday on suspicion of planning killings and attacks around Kuala Lumpur during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Police said on Thursday they detained two men from the northern Malaysian state of Kedah who turned themselves in after their families agreed to cooperate with authorities.

The pair, both aged 27, had learned how to build large-scale explosives and car bombs in 2018 while training with the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an Islamic State-linked extremist network based in Indonesia, Abdul Hamid said.

Both suspects had scouted several churches in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta as potential targets. One of the men was planning a suicide bomb attack on non-Muslim places of worship in Malaysia, Abdul Hamid said.

Malaysia has arrested hundreds of people in the past few years for suspected militant links.

A grenade attack on a bar on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in June 2016 wounded eight people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the first such strike on Malaysian soil.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; editing by Darren Schuettler