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40 Malaysian Islamist radicals fighting for IS

Bangkok : Around 40 Malaysian citizens have joined the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group to fight in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Malaysian media reported Friday.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi called on the population to reject extremism and protect the image of the country.

“We don’t want Malaysia to be considered internationally as a breeding ground for terrorists (and) we must protect the image of our religion and country based on the principle of moderation,” the Malaysian Star quoted Hamidi as saying.

“We don’t have any information about the reasons of their involvement with these activities,” the minister added, referring to the citizens who left Malaysia to join the IS.

So far, two Malaysian jihadis are known to have died while fighting in Syria and citizens of other Southeast Asian nations have also joined the jihadis.

According to analysts, around 200 Indonesians have gone to fight with the IS in Syria.

Over the past decade and a half, Islamic terrorism has gained ground in Southeast Asia with bloody attacks such as the bombing of a nightclub in October, 2002, which killed 202 people, most of them tourists, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The Bali attack was committed by Yemma Islamiya, which is considered the regional arm of Al Qaeda by anti-terrorist experts, who fear that the IS can now become another incentive for the Islamic radicals in the region.

The governments of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have reacted to the resurgence of Islamic terrorism with the arrest of hundreds of suspects and improving cooperation in anti-terrorist operations.