By N. Nantha and Hareez Lee
Authorities in Malaysia are on alert because of a new propaganda video from Islamic State that appears to show the execution of prisoners and footage of a Malaysian urging IS followers to mount attacks in their home countries.
The eight-minute video features two militants, identified by authorities in Malaysia and Singapore as citizens of their respective countries, speaking to the camera as they call on IS supporters to carry out acts of terror.
The video surfaced as Malaysia and Saudi Arabia were preparing to co-host a two-day counter-terrorism conference bringing together security ministers from 20 countries in Putrajaya, the Malaysian administrative capital, on Friday and Saturday.
“Malaysian authorities have increased their intel and resources to monitor the activities of individuals that are suspected of aiding and supporting the IS group in Malaysia,” a senior Malaysian police official said Tuesday in response to questions about the propaganda video.
“From our initial findings, the video is freshly produced as the Malaysian never appeared in any video before,” the source told BenarNews on condition of anonymity, adding that the video was shot recently.
A slick production posted online by Khayr Wilayah, a pro-IS media group, the video features an interview with an IS suicide bomber in his car before his mission, footage of IS-linked terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, France, as well as scenes from war zones in the Middle East. Narrated in Arabic, the video contains scenes from a previous New Year’s celebration in Sydney, Australia, and shots of downtown Los Angeles and New York City.
Malaysian police identified one of the speakers in the video as Muhammad Aqif Heusen Rahizat, the brother of Muhammad Afiq Heusen Rahizat, a militant who was in killed in a bombardment along the Iraq-Syria border in October 2014. His death occurred after Aqif traveled to the region in December 2013 to join his sibling there, the senior police official said.
Aqif, 25, whose nom-de-guerre is Abu Sufyan Malayzi, comes from Kluang, a small town in the southern state of Johor, the source said. Until 2015, Aqif actively recruited fighters through Facebook.
Among the people he allegedly recruited was his supposed bride, Ummi Kalsom Bahak, who was arrested Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in October 2014 and charged with a terrorism-related offense, the source said.
“He went below radar since then right up until the latest video released by IS in December,” the official told BenarNews.
‘Slay the enemies of Allah’
Aqif appears two minutes into the video.
“If you have many obstacles to perform hijrah to the land of Khilafah and … al-Sham and other Wilayah, then Allah has opened up for all of you the land of Jihad of your own countries,” he says in an English monologue, referring to Iraq and Syria, where the strongholds of IS’s self-declared caliphate, Raqqa and Mosul, fell to anti-IS coalition forces in 2017.
Later in the video, a man described by officials in Singapore as Singaporean national Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, appears in combat fatigues toting a handgun, which he later uses in participating with two other men in what seems to be the execution of three prisoners.
“Slay the enemies of Allah wherever you are,” he says to the camera, according to the video seen by BenarNews.
“Now the fighting has just begun. We will never stop cutting off the heads of every kufar and muqtaddin until we cleanse the land of Islam from East Asia to the West of Africa,” he adds.
The eight-minute video was the second featuring Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, following a shorter one disseminated in September, the Straits Times of Singapore reported over the weekend.
Malaysian authorities believe Muhammad Aqif Heusen Rahizat is hiding out with other Malaysian IS members at Abu Kamal, a Syrian town close to the border with Iraq following IS’s defeat in Raqqa, the police official said.
Thirty-four Malaysian have been reported killed while fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria. Another 53 – 24 men, 12 women and 17 children – are believed to still be in Syria, but may have fled from cities where battles took place, according to Malaysian police. Officials had said the Malaysians might have sought refuge in camps along Syria’s borders with Jordan and Turkey.
Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have arrested 369 people for suspected links to IS and other militant groups, according to government statistics compiled by BenarNews.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is gearing up to co-host the two-day conference being billed as an international security dialogue on how nations can pool their experience of “wisdom and moderation in countering terrorism.”
The conference is being co-organized by Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs and Saudi Arabia-based think-tank Rabitah Al-Alam Al-Islami or the Muslim World League.
As many as 1,000 people from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and 18 other countries, including Indonesia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Australia, France and Britain, are expected to attend. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are scheduled to give speeches on Saturday in Putrajaya.
The conference will be divided into four sessions covering themes including international collaboration in combating terrorism; Islam as the means of moderation and security; the role of religion in inculcating values and moderation; and countering terrorism with wisdom and humanity.
The meeting will take place amid closer bilateral ties being forged between Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh.
During his visit to Malaysia in March 2017, Saudi King Salman announced Malaysia would be the future home of a Saudi-backed center, the King Salman Center for International Peace, which would work to counter the terrorist narrative. Malaysia’s government has a two-year timeline for building the center, which will be housed at a 40-acre site in Putrajaya.
Malaysia already has an online counter-extremist messaging center overseen by the Royal Malaysia Police. It also has the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism, operated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with assistance from the U.S. State Department.