KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police detained three people on Thursday, including a former army captain linked to two hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks, on suspicion of recruiting militants for terrorist activities.
The detentions are believed to be the first under Malaysia's Security Offenses Act, which was introduced last year to replace a law that allowed indefinite detention without trial.
The two men and a woman were detained on suspicion they led efforts "to recruit several Malaysians for terrorist activities," said national police Chief Ismail Omar.
He said in a statement that an investigation is continuing. Other police officials said they could not elaborate.
The statement did not identify the suspects. However, human rights group Suaram said they include Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain who spent seven years in detention without trial after being accused of belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant network. He was freed in 2008 when officials said he no longer posed a threat.
Police took Yazid, now a cafeteria operator, and an employee from their workplace in Kuala Lumpur and told them they were being held under the Security Offenses Act, Suaram and human rights lawyer Fadwa Nadiah Fikri said.
Fadwa, a Suaram member, is not formally representing Yazid but went to his home while police were searching it Thursday. It was not clear when the three suspects would be allowed access to lawyers.
The identity of the female detainee was not immediately known.
The security act enables police to hold suspects for up to 28 days before they must be brought to court. Militant suspects could previously be jailed for years without court approval, but Prime Minister Najib Razak abolished that provision after decades of criticism that it was sometimes abused to target anti-government figures.
Authorities had long insisted that detention without trial kept Malaysia safe from any major terrorist incident.
Yazid was one of Malaysia's most prominent security detainees in the past decade.
He allegedly let several senior al-Qaida operatives, including two eventual hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, use an apartment he owned for meetings in Malaysia in January 2000. Officials have said the Sept. 11 attacks were not discussed there.
Yazid, a U.S.-trained biochemist, was previously arrested in late 2001 when he returned home from Afghanistan, where he was suspected of working on a biological and chemical weapons program for al-Qaida.
Yazid has not spoken publicly about many of the specific accusations against him, but in an interview with news website Malaysiakini last year he said he had met Osama bin Laden before his detention and underwent combat training in Afghanistan.