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Malaysia's Leader Denies Connection of Local Islamic Militants with Sept. 11 - 2002-01-29

Malaysia's leader says that local Islamic militants now in custody are not connected to the September 11th terror attacks in the United States. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says these suspected terrorists were, instead, intent on destabilizing Malaysia.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says none of the alleged Islamic militants arrested recently in Malaysia are directly linked to the September attacks on Washington and New York. In a news conference Monday, Mr. Mahathir said the more than two dozen suspects had focused their attention on Malaysia only. "What we do know is that other Malaysians … trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan and came back with the intention to … destabilize this country, to create racial tension, religious tensions," Mr. Mahathir said.

But according to the U.S. magazine, Newsweek, U.S. investigators suspect a Malaysian named Yazid Sufaat of having aided two of the men who hijacked a U.S. jetliner and crashed it into the Pentagon in Washington. The report also ties Mr. Yazid to other suspected terrorists and the al-Qaida network led by Osama bin Laden.

While Mr. Mahathir and other top officials deny a link to the U.S. attacks, Malaysian authorities already have Mr. Yazid in custody.

The former Malaysian army officer has been detained since December along with other suspects under Malaysia's Internal Security Act. Malaysian authorities have said that Mr. Yazid is suspected of having ordered several tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used as a powerful explosive.

Malaysia is cooperating with Singapore and the Philippines in a crackdown on suspected militants. Singapore recently arrested several men it says planned attacks on U.S. military and business locations in Singapore, and the Philippines has arrested several people suspected of plotting attacks there.