PETALING JAYA: Malaysia remains vulnerable to an attack despite the robust capabilities of its national counter-terrorism forces and limited Islamic State’s (IS) success in the country, an expert has said.
Southeast Asia political risk analyst Alexander Macleod said although it remains unlikely that IS will attack Malaysia in the near future, the threats from lone wolf attacks and digital recruitment will keep counter-terrorism authorities busy.
“Measures have been taken to starve the terrorists’ funding networks, through the closure of informal remittance channels, although risks from money laundering remain,” Macleod said in a report published by Global Risk Insights, a risk intelligence company.
“More also needs to be done on social media, which continues to undermine central intelligence efforts.
“Although the authorities have terminated a number of pro-IS websites, digital recruitment via Twitter and WhatsApp remains a large threat.
“Authorities the world over have faced resistance from WhatsApp in getting past its encrypted messaging service.”
Nevertheless, Macleod said the Malaysian authorities should be praised for their sustained counter-terrorism efforts although certain entry points need to have tighter security.
“Malaysian security officials will not be complacent,” he said. “Along with Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia is already making sustained efforts to increase border security in the porous Sulu region, Malaysia’s long-time Achilles heel.
“Other border areas need tightening of security, like the Sungai Golok which separates the southern Thailand province of Narathiwat from Kelantan.
“In the past, this area has been exploited by pro-IS weapons-smuggling groups.”
IS central has lost its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria following the offensive from coalition forces.
This has forced its foreign fighters to disperse, forcing them to return home or head to other nations where IS is still fighting.
Generally, Macleod said, there is a strong likelihood that returning fighters will be caught and detained under relevant laws, as over 260 have been since 2013.
But he believes the majority of Malaysian fighters will not return home.
“The police Special Branch anti-terrorism unit closely tracks terror suspects, and is collaborating with other regional and global agencies,” said Macleod.
“As such, Malaysian fighters are not likely to return home in vast numbers.
“Most will stay on and continue to fight, or go to other countries struggling with Islamic insurgencies, like Myanmar or Thailand.
“Unlike Malaysia, many other places will also provide these fighters with refuge.”