Anti-Terror Drive: Bangladeshis among 400 held in KL
Ahead of Southeast Asia's biggest sporting event in mid-August, Malaysian authorities in a counter-terrorism operation have detained over 400 people, mostly foreign workers.
Those held in a series of raids in the capital Kuala Lumpur were mainly from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, media reports quoting officials said.
The police crackdown in Kuala Lumpur netted 409 people on Sunday, Malaysia's top anti-terror official, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, told BenarNews.
Of those, 275 were released, 133 were detained on suspicion of immigration violations and one person was held under Malaysia's Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act, Ayob said.
He further said the foreign workers also included citizens of Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar, Oman, Yemen, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.
The arrested people were taken to police headquarters, where their identities were screened against Interpol's Foreign Terrorist Fighters list and Malaysia's counter-terrorism database, Ayob said.
"The operation is the first of many that we are going to conduct in conjunction with SEA Games,” Ayob said. “The main aim is to weed out the area from any threats, including terror elements.”
He said police operations would focus in the Klang Valley and in states where sports events will be hosted, including northern Kedah state and Penang, on the northwest coast.
Malaysian officials are on heightened alert and authorities have carried out preparations to beef up security during the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), a multi-sport event involving 11 countries that is scheduled to take place from August 19 to 31.
Last Friday, police launched drills and practiced commando raids in Kuala Lumpur to prepare for the games. Prime Minister Najib Razak and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi witnessed the practice runs.
According to a BBC report, machines to make fake passports and to forge Malaysian immigration documents were among the items seized from the arrested people.
Monday's raids saw police break down doors and lead scores of people away in handcuffs to waiting buses. They were taken to police stations for investigation and screening.
Authorities said they were targeting anyone with missing or fraudulent travel documents or who was believed to be affiliated with terror groups in Syria and Iraq.
"We will detect and take action against foreigners suspected of having links with terrorists, especially those involved in activities in Syria," police counter-terror official Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, said, quoted by Free Malaysia on Monday.
Officers were also equipped with devices to detect radioactive materials, police said, although no such items were found.