KUALALUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian police have detained four men suspected of plotting a wave of killings and attacks in and around the capital during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, police said on Monday.
The Southeast Asian nation has been on high alert since gunmen allied with Islamic State carried out a series of attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia, in January 2016.
The four suspects are two Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, an Indonesian and a Malaysian, Inspector General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador told reporters.
Dubbed the “wolf pack” cell, he said its members had planned to launch large-scale attacks during the first week of Ramadan to avenge a Muslim fireman who was allegedly beaten to death during a racially charged riot at a Hindu temple in November.
The fireman’s death angered majority Malay Muslims, some of whom had accused Hindu leaders of inciting the riot through racial remarks.
“This cell had also planned an operation to assassinate high-profile personalities accused of insulting and failing to uphold Islam,” Abdul Hamid said in a video recording of a press conference seen by Reuters.
He declined to identify the targets of the planned killings.
Muslims all over the world fast during daylight hours during Ramadan.
One of the Rohingya suspects, a 20-year-old waiter, told police he was a supporter of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group said to be behind a number of killings and attacks in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Abdul Hamid said.
The man possessed a UNHCR identification card issued by the U.N. refugee agency, he said.
Police also seized a gun and six homemade explosives during the arrests.
The Rohingya have for years fled persecution in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship as they are seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They often arrive on Southeast Asian shores in rickety boats seeking asylum.
More than 90,000 Rohingya are registered with the United Nations in Malaysia but non-profit groups estimate as many as 200,000 Rohingya are living in the country.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Nick Macfie)