Islamic State militants have planned attacks in Malaysia including a plot to kidnap three of the country's top officials last year, a report said Tuesday, a week after Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed an unrelenting anti-terrorism fight.
Besides Najib, those on the list were Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's Star Online reported Tuesday.
"On Jan. 30, 2015, a total of 13 people with ties to Daesh [Islamic State group] had planned to kidnap the leaders, including the prime minister, home minister and defense minister," Zahid, who is also the home minister, said.
The report said Zahid was replying to a query raised by a member of Parliament about the Home Ministry's anti-terrorism fight.
Police had prevented at least four militant attacks in Malaysia, including in September 2014, when authorities stopped a plan to test improvised explosive devices in the northeastern state of Kedah, Zahid said.
The Islamic State group also planned to attack places of worship, as well as entertainment outlets in Malaysia, which has struggled to control extremism sweeping through its large Muslim population. The report, however, did not say if any of the 13 suspects had been arrested.
The report comes just a week after Najib pledged to fight extremism and terrorism in the region, saying at a business conference in Jeddah that Malaysia and Saudi Arabia were "inseparable partners" in the effort.
Malaysian militants have been known to be involved in attacks across the Southeast Asian region, including in the strife-torn southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where a Muslim insurgency has raged since the 1970s.
A renowned Saudi Arabian cleric on the hit list of the extremist group, also known as ISIS, and a companion were shot and wounded in an attack in Mindanao just last week. And last year, a Malaysian bomb expert called Marwan, who was on the list of terrorists wanted by the United States, was killed by troops, also in Mindanao.
Neighboring Indonesia, which is likewise predominantly Muslim, has also been faced with the same problem, and early in the past decade struggled with the Jemaah Islamiyah, then known as al Qaeda's Asian arm. The Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for bombings in the resort island of Bali that left over 200 dead, many of them Western holidaymakers.
Experts said that the Jemaah Islamiyah threat has largely diminished, but only to be replaced by the ISIS. In particular, analysts fear that Asian Muslims who had fought alongside their ISIS counterparts in the Middle East can return home to cause havoc.
Indonesia last week arrested four ISIS-linked militants, in connection with bombings in Jakarta that killed six people in January. A total of 43 suspects have so far been arrested.