An estimated 75 percent of new Islamic State group supporters in Malaysia are recruited online, the country’s home ministry said Monday. The news comes as Malaysian police beef up efforts to monitor social networking sites for possible terrorist activities in the country.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that it is essential for police to closely monitor online activities as most social media users are below the age of 40 and thus are easy targets for the media-savvy ISIS. Malaysian authorities have pledged to fight ISIS, which continues to advance in Iraq and Syria, and recently took over Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province.
“Isis has taken certain steps to the point that they have overpowered Ramadi, so now it takes only an hour and a half to travel to Baghdad, and this has given the Isis militants renewed spirit,” Zahid said, according to the Malaysian Insider. “We are also worried this will influence the militants in Malaysia, because 75% of these militants are recruited through social media.
“The police through the anti-terrorism unit are monitoring not just several websites, but individuals on the police’s suspect list,” he reportedly said.
Zahid also reportedly said that the police have launched an awareness campaign about the ISIS threat, adding that educating the public about the Sunni-militant group is important as it holds a strong regional and international network that it actively uses to expand its influence and lure youths to join its ranks.
Hundreds of Malaysians have reportedly been arrested by police for their alleged ties to ISIS over the last two years. Last month, dozens of Malaysian military personnel were found to have joined the group, and authorities said that at least 70 members of the country's armed forces were identified by police as having ties to ISIS.
In March, two Malaysians were identified in an ISIS beheading video, which is believed to have been shot in Syria, following which a new antiterrorism law was passed to help curb the growing number of Malaysian citizens joining ISIS.