KOTA KINABALU: A think tank has urged Malaysian authorities, including those not directly responsible for security, to exercise vigilance in the face of calls for Islamic State (IS) supporters to launch chemical attacks at supermarkets and hospitals.
The threat should be taken seriously, but without causing general panic, said Elina Noor, director of foreign policy and security studies at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies.
The SITE Intelligence Group reported last Tuesday that the pro-IS Wafa’ Media Foundation had published an article calling on medical personnel to kill “apostates” and “disbelievers” receiving treatment at hospitals. It gave ideas on how to do this.
This followed a message on IS channels that urged supporters to inject cyanide into products sold in supermarkets.
“All threats should of course be taken seriously, including those involving chemical weapons, especially when IS has allegedly used them in Syria and Iraq,” Elina said.
She said the public should be educated on actions to take in the case of an attack and the recruitment of “the eyes and ears of as many people as possible” to detect the possibility of attacks. This must be done without arousing suspicion or creating fear, she added.
“It is important that a balance be struck between creating awareness and not causing panic.”
Elina said chemical attacks would take “a certain level of skill” to execute successfully.
“Chemical agents are often unstable and require expert handling to weaponise,” she said. “It is unclear whether there are operatives here who have already mastered the skill to administer them, especially as lone wolves without prior training.”
IS has reportedly called on operatives and followers, including lone wolves, to mount unconventional attacks instead of using the usual man-and-van tactics.
Two years before last year’s attack in the French city of Nice, IS had reportedly told its followers to mount attacks using vehicles.
A 19-tonne truck was used in the Nice attack. It killed 86 people.
Since then, at least five other vehicle attacks have targeted civilians, including two strikes that were followed by stabbing sprees in London this year.
Elina said authorities and members of the public should not be dismissive of new attack ideas even if they seemed far fetched.