CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
Authorities reported seven Malaysian men suspected of being part of Islamic State (ISIS) cell planning terrorist attacks arrested between late Feb and mid-March in operations in Johor state (south), and one Filipino terror suspect arrested in Sabah (east). Ahead of general election due by 24 Aug, parliament approved controversial legislation redrawing some constituency boundaries, prompting protests and outcry from opposition, who said move would favour ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
Efforts against violent extremism and Islamic State (ISIS) continued. Home affairs ministry 19 Feb ordered immigration department to conduct random checks at airports in Sabah to prevent potential terrorists from entering country, amid concerns that individuals linked to ISIS and from Philippine Abu Sayyaf terrorist group have been entering Sabah from Mindanao before flying to West Malaysia. In series of operations 25 Jan-6 Feb in Johor and Sabah, police arrested ten men and a woman for alleged ISIS links; seven Filipinos among those arrested, including two leading Abu Sayyaf figures, one accused of recruiting Malaysians and Indonesians to group.
Islamic State (ISIS) video uploaded 30 Dec featured Malaysian Muhammad Aqif Heusen Rahizat, aka Abu Sufyan Malayzi, and Singaporean, Abu Akil Al Singapuri, urging others to launch attacks in their home countries if they cannot join ISIS in Syria. Police 22 Jan arrested two men believed to have links with ISIS, with one aiming to kill Buddhist monks as retaliation for violence suffered by Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Media 28 Jan reported authorities uncovered ISIS plot to launch attacks through members working as security guards.
Govt 7 Dec condemned U.S. decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it would complicate efforts to combat international terrorism. Defence minister 9 Dec said armed forces would be willing to provide assistance to Palestine. Govt clarified that U.S.-Malaysia bilateral relations will not be affected.
Amid concerns about radicalisation of Malaysians in Syria and return to Malaysia, police 1 Nov reported 53 suspected Malaysian members of Islamic State (ISIS) hiding in no-man’s land in Syria following fall of Raqqa, including Mohd Rafi Udin, senior Malaysian ISIS leader in Syria. Counter-terrorism chief 22 Nov reported death of Mahmud Ahmad, said to have helped to fund and recruit for Marawi City siege in Philippines, are not confirmed. Authorities increased security along Thai border after some 20 Chinese Uighur Muslims broke out of immigration detention centre in southern Thailand 20 Nov. South East Asian countries and Australia 22 Nov established South East Asia Counter Terrorism Financing Working Group, targeting terrorist groups through disruption of regional financing flows.
Defence ministers of Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia 12 Oct launched Trilateral Air Patrol in Subang to counter Islamic State (ISIS) and piracy in Sulu Sea; follows marine patrols launched in April. Police reported 7 Oct arrest of four foreigners and four Malaysians, allegedly involved in terror activities linked to Abu Sayyaf, ISIS and Jemaah Islamiah; 17 Oct reported arrest of nineteen-year-old in north-eastern Kelantan state, accused along with two others of plotting attack in capital. Media 13 Oct reported 45 foreigners with alleged ISIS ties arrested to date in 2017. Deputy home minister 17 Oct reported that ISIS is eyeing Malaysia to strengthen its position in South East Asia.
Among counter-terror arrests during month, authorities reported police in Kuala Lumpur had arrested seven Filipino security guards 14 Sept suspected of being members of Abu Sayyaf militant group. Police 18 Sept reported militant groups in Malaysia and Bangladesh have recruited fighters to join Rohingya insurgency in Myanmar’s Rakhine state; no evidence so far that South East Asian fighters are present in Rakhine or Bangladesh.
Counter Terrorism Division 23 Aug reported apparent decline in Islamic State (ISIS) recruitment in Malaysia following April death of Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi. Authorities reportedly arrested hundreds, mostly undocumented migrants, in search for ISIS militants during major security sweeps around capital Kuala Lumpur ahead of Southeast Asia Games late Aug. Govt 8 Aug protested Turkey’s deportation of suspected ISIS-linked militants to Malaysia without informing it.
Media 21 July reported Malaysian Islamic State (ISIS) leader Muhammad Fudhail Omar killed in airstrike in Raqqa, Syria. Defence minister 23 July announced govt would send assistance to help Philippines fight ISIS militants in Marawi City (see Philippines).
Police arrested several suspected of links with Islamic State (ISIS) during month, including two Indonesians and a Malaysian believed to be planning to travel to Philippines to fight in Marawi City (see Philippines). Defence minister 9 June visited his Philippines counterpart in Mindanao, Philippines, to discuss presence of Malaysian fighters in Marawi City.
Police 3 May announced arrests of four men and two women with Islamic State (ISIS) links in Kelantan, Pahang, Malacca, Johor and Penang; two other men also detained, suspected of smuggling arms from southern Thailand; six men suspected of ISIS links arrested in four states 23-26 May. Authorities 9 May confirmed Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jadi, Malaysia’s most-wanted ISIS member who claimed June 2016 bombing in Kuala Lumpur, killed in Syria in drone attack. Media 25 May reported two Malaysians were among thirteen ISIS militants killed in Marawi City in late May gunfights between Philippine military and ISIS-linked Maute Group (see Philippines).
13th general elections 5 May ended with narrow win by ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition in terms of parliamentary seats (133 out of 222), but with worst result for BN in 44 years as Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition coalition Pakatan won popular vote. Opposition 8 May began series of rallies to protest electoral fraud, first attended by almost 100,000. Police 23 May began crackdown of prominent opposition politicians under Sedition Act.
Allegations from both ruling Barisan Nasional and opposition of political violence by other side as 5 May election approaches. As violence in Sabah subsided, 19 Filipinos being tried there for crimes ranging from waging war against king to joining terrorist group; over 100 being held under Security Offences Act which permits authorities to hold suspects for 28 days without charge.
Standoff in Sabah between supporters of Jamalul Kiram III, descendant of sultan of Sulu, who arrived from Philippines in Feb, and Malaysian security forces turned violent. 12 members of Sultan’s “army” and 2 Malaysian police killed in clash 1 March; 6 Malaysian police, 6 Filipinos killed next day. Malaysia responded forcefully with aerial, mortar assault 5 March; survivors of Sultan’s army dispersed into wider area, sporadic firefights with military ongoing. Over 60 followers of Sultan, ten members of security forces, reported killed over month; over 400 detained, 8 charged with terrorism. Sultan’s supporters and insurgent MNLF reportedly trying to send reinforcements; Malaysia established new safety zone and relocated residents in affected area. Over 5,000 people of Filipino origin fled Sabah for southern Philippines; Manila criticised Kuala Lumpur for allegedly abusing detainees and evacuees fleeing area. UNSG Ban appealed for end to fighting. Journalists and others demanding access to site.
PM Razak, criticised for harsh police actions against opposition street protesters in July, 15 Sept pledged to abolish Internal Security Act used to detain suspected militants and state dissidents without trial; also said strict media laws to be relaxed.
PM Razak 17 Aug proposed bipartisan parliamentary committee on electoral reform, following violent July crackdown on opposition protests demanding reform.
In largest demonstration in years, more than 10,000 protested against govt in Kuala Lumpur 9 July; some 1,400 briefly detained as protesters clashed with police; rights groups criticised heavy-handed police response. Protests organised by local coalition of NGOs demanding more transparency in election process.
Surprise victory in 11 December Aceh gubernatorial elections for GAM leader Irwandi Yusuf, with 38% of vote. President Yudhoyono and other Jakarta officials accepted results. Constitutional Court struck down 2004 law on establishing Truth and Reconciliation Commission, criticised by victims groups and rights advocates for amnesty provisions and tying reparations to victims’ formal exoneration of perpetrators. Supreme Court overturned terrorism conviction of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, former amir of Jemaah Islamiyah, 21 December after flimsy evidence presented by prosecutor. Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebels suspected in killing of 2 officers near Mulia 8 December.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.