Report: Putrajaya trying to bring home 13 from Syria who joined IS

13 Malaysians want to return home as an offensive by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces enters the final stage in the last IS stronghold in eastern Syria. (AFP pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) crumbles, some Malaysians who went to fight for the terror organisation in Syria and Iraq want to return.

According to an Al Jazeera report, 13 Malaysians want to return home as an offensive by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces enters the final stage in the last IS stronghold in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the police’s head of counter-terrorism, told Al Jazeera that Malaysia was “trying to bring them home”. However, he said, the situation was difficult as it involved many parties from different countries.

He said they would be allowed to come back provided they complied with checks and enforcement and completed a one-month government-run rehabilitation programme.

“Not everyone will be detained but all returnees will be interrogated. We will conduct thorough checks and investigation on each returnee. We bring in clerics and psychologists to evaluate their ideology and psychological make-up.

“We will compare intelligence which we received from friendly foreign services. If there is evidence that a returnee was involved in IS’s militant activities, he or she would be charged in court,” Ayob was quoted as saying.

So far, of 11 Malaysians who returned from Syria and Iraq, eight men were charged and convicted. The other three are a woman and two children aged three and five.

“The woman underwent a rehabilitation programme and has now returned to her kampung,” Ayob said, adding that her movements were being monitored.

However, Ayob was quoted as saying, even though IS had all but collapsed in Iraq and Syria, some Malaysians were still keen on fighting for the group.

“Those who cannot go to Syria are now setting their sights on Mindanao in southern Philippines where militant groups there have links to IS,” Al Jazeera quoted him as saying.

According to Ayob there are 51 Malaysians in Syria, including 17 children.

A total of 102 Malaysians are said to have left the country to live in the group’s so-called Islamic State, with about 40 killed in fighting in Syria and Iraq. Nine of them were suicide bombers.

Al Jazeera spoke to the father of one of the women, named Lidia, 29, who wants to return home.

According to the report, Lidia, a medical lab technician, left Malaysia with her infant son and husband in October 2014 to travel secretly to Syria.

Two weeks ago, she sent a text message to her father in Johor to tell him she had fled the territory of the group and asked him to help her return to Malaysia.

“I never lost hope that one day Lidia would tell me she wants to come home,” her father, a Johor-based businessman, told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.

Ayob confirmed that Lidia is one of the 13 Malaysians who want to return

The report said that over the past four years, Lidia had maintained sporadic communications with her father through WhatsApp. When her first husband died, she married another man there but he too is now dead.

“I believe she now wants to return home because both her husbands are dead,” the father was quoted as saying. He added: “”Let her experience under IS be a lesson to her. Now it is proven that Malaysia is better than the caliphate. Now she can make the comparison.”