KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police said Wednesday they have detained 14 Muslims, including two women and a student, suspected of being linked to the militant Islamic State group.
The detentions bring the number of people held for suspected militant links to 36 since April.
National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the group was detained over the last three days in an operation in central Selangor state. They included a student, a chef, an engineer, a graphic designer and a housewife, he said.
Khalid said in a statement that three were believed to be leaders of a cell responsible for recruiting, sponsoring and sending Malaysians to fight in Syria.
One of them managed a Facebook page to attract followers and was also active in recruiting female students at local universities, he said. A 34-year-old suspect who returned to the country in April after joining the militants in Syria for a few months acted as an adviser to encourage Malaysians to fight in there, he said.
The engineer, who is a civil servant, is believed to have sponsored Malaysians heading to Syria and also has links with three other suspected militants who fled to join the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern Philippines, he said.
Khalid said five of those detained were from the same family and are suspected of preparing to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. Police found books on jihad and militant activities in a raid on one of their homes, he said.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has said the arrests show the government is serious about routing out militants.
Last month, police detained three Muslim men at the airport suspected of heading to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Earlier this year, authorities detained 19 suspected militants for allegedly planning to carry out terrorist acts in the country and abroad. Seven were charged and the rest were released.