137 people in Malaysia have been arrested for either planning to join IS overseas, returning to Malaysia after joining the group, or sending funds to the group. (Wikipedia) Photograph: (Others)
This comes after intelligence report said IS members would return to their home countries or hide in Southeast Asia if they lost Mosul
Malaysia is stepping up security at its borders to prevent Malaysian militant fighters from trickling into the country as Iraqi forces launch an offensive to take back Mosul, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday.
Ahmad Zahid told a press conference that security at the Malaysian airport and the border has been increased, and illegal routes are being monitored.
"We have been exchanging intel with international intelligence agencies, and we have a suspect list which includes names of those we believe have ties with Daesh (Islamic State)," he said, Reuters reported.
Zahid did not mention the number of Malaysians currently in Mosul but according to Reuters, police figures released last month showed that 90 Malaysians had joined IS in Syria and Iraq since 2013.
In August, Malaysia revoked passports of 68 Malaysians who had left the country to join IS.
Deputy PM Zahid said that if the fighters return home, they would be detained and sent for deradicalisation.
So far, 137 Malaysians have been arrested for either planning to join IS overseas, returning to Malaysia after joining the group or sending funds to the group, he added.
The country’s defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein had said on Monday that intelligence sources suggested that thousands of IS members would make their way back to their countries of origin or look for safe havens in regions like Southeast Asia, if they lose Mosul to the Iraqi forces.
"We have to be very proactive," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.
Authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia have been on high alert since eight people were injured when two IS supporters threw a grenade into a bar on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the first successful attack by the group in Malaysia.
(WION with inputs from Reuters)