A group of 19 suspected militants have been arrested by Malaysian police, who allegedly have plans to stage a wave of bombings across Southeast Asia, inspired by the extremist group ISIL.
The group were identified as all Malaysians, Ayob Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Malaysian police counter-terrorism division, said. Their plans included bombing pubs, discos as well as a Malaysian brewery of Danish beer producer Carlsberg.
Arrested from April-June 2014, the group, aged between 20 and 50, included professionals and two housewives. A number of the arrests were conducted at airports as some of them were on the way to Turkey and Syria to seek training and other support from ISIL.
Their plans, Ayob Khan told AFP, was to sow terror and create a hardline South-east Asian Islamic caliphate that spans from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
They also had plans to travel to Syria to undergo training right directly under the ISIS. Posting in Facebook under the guise of "humanitarian work," some of them were able to raise funds to support their travel to Syria.
Ayob Khan said the group had yet to learn how to make bombs at the time of their arrest. They also do not have heavy weapons yet.
Their plan was "a campaign of violence and armed struggle and to die as martyrs," Ayob Khan said.
The top counter-terrorism official noted bars and the Carlsberg brewery were essentially being targeted because Islam forbids alcohol consumption.
Ayob Khan believed at least 40 Malaysians have gone to Syria to join the civil war there.
Meantime, a local report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer from the Philippines has said close to 200 Filipinos are believed to have joined ISIS.
Officials reportedly were monitoring travel movements of Filipinos, noting the increase in the number of citizens going to Iraq and Syria to fight with the ISIS militants.
The report said about 100 Filipinos had undergone training in Iran before going to Syria as of March 2014. It added two Filipinos had died during the conflict.