KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian police arrested an east African man on Thursday on suspicion of involvement with the al-Shahab Islamist militant group.
A police statement said the arrest occurred near Kuala Lumpur. It didn’t give the 34-year-old man’s name but said he was wanted by Interpol for terrorism-related activities.
It was unclear whether he would be extradited or held in Malaysia. “Police are investigating the subject’s activities in Malaysia to identify any al-Shabab terrorist elements which might be hiding or carrying out activities that might jeopardize the safety of Malaysia,” the statement said. Al-Shabab is Somalia’s most feared militant group and has ties with al-Qaida.
It carried out the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya late last year. While it recruits from the Somali diaspora, it has not been known to have a transnational agenda. Organized Islamist militant cells have long existed in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines but a regional crackdown since 2001 has weakened them significantly.
Their members have sought to make contact with other extremist groups in the Middle East and South Asia for funding, training or operational purposes. Last month, Malaysian police said they arrested 11 terrorism suspects with links to networks outside Malaysia. It was unclear whether those arrests were linked with the one on Thursday.
Local media said those suspects were believed to have been planning to travel to Syria, currently a popular destination for international jihadis, including those in Southeast Asia.