KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian police thwarted a plan by a member of the Islamic-State linked Abu Sayyaf militant group to attack the closing ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur last week, the top police official said on Tuesday.
The suspected attacker, a 25-year-old Philippine national, had been involved in fighting, kidnapping and beheading of foreign hostages in the Philippines, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.
The arrest will raise concern about increasing cooperation among militants within Southeast Asia and what governments fear is the spreading influence of Islamic State as it loses ground in the Middle East..
Mohamad Fuzi did not identify the suspect but said he had planned to attack the closing ceremony of the games at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, as well as an Independence Day parade the next day. He gave no detail of the plans.
The man was arrested in a raid on Aug. 30, the day of the ceremony, along with seven other suspected members of the hardline Abu Sayyaf, including another Philippine national.
Authorities said earlier they had detained Philippine Abu Sayyaf leader Hajar Abdul Mubin, 25, also known as Abu Asrie, in the Aug. 30 raid.
Abu Asrie was arrested with six Malaysians and another Philippine national, aged between 20 and 52, police said earlier.
Eleven other suspected militants, including nine foreigners, were picked up in a two-month security operation before the games.
The arrests were the latest in a crackdown on militancy by Muslim-majority Malaysia. Since 2013, Malaysia has arrested more than 250 people on suspicion of links to Islamic State.
Among those picked up were two Iraqi brothers, aged 41 and 63, who were suspected to have served as commanders for Islamic State, Mohamad Fuzi said. They were working as technicians and were arrested in a Kuala Lumpur suburb on Aug. 11.
The Iraqis had arrived in Malaysia separately and were detained on information from foreign intelligence agencies, a Malaysian police source told Reuters.
“One arrived last year, while the other came in early August. We’re still investigating what their activities were in Malaysia,” said the source, who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to media.
Others picked up in the sweep included suspects from Bangladesh, the Maldives, Indonesia and the Palestinian territories.
Police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told Reuters the number of foreigners showed the growing Islamic State threat in the region.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Robert Birsel