Accessibility links

No Confirmed Link Between Malaysia Terror Suspects and Christmas Attack

Reports that a group of terror suspects arrested in Malaysia have ties to a Nigerian suspected in last month's attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner have not been confirmed.

Malaysia Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced Wednesday that police had arrested several suspected terrorists. He said they were mainly foreigners and linked to an international terrorist network.

He also said the arrests were based on cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies and the group is being held under Malaysia's Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Beyond that few details are available.

The local media has reported the suspects were associated with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to detonate a bomb during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. James Chin, political science professor with Monash University in Malaysia, says this is just speculation.

"Right now that is not official. That is something that was written by a journalist, as far as I know," he said. "The minister has not confirmed these stories. What is clear is that these groups of people were very young, and if I am not mistaken one or two of them were actually registered as children in Malaysia."

A human-rights group says the suspects include four men from Syria, two from Nigeria and one each from Yemen and Jordan. It says they were among 50 people arrested by police while attending a religious talk by a Syrian university lecturer on January 21 at a home near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's largest city. The others were later released.

Professor Chin discredits reports they were planning an attack on foreigners at Borneo resorts.

"There has never been a terrorist attack in Malaysia," he said. "Most of the terrorism as we see in this part of the world comes straight to Indonesia, Southern Thailand and the Southern Philippines. However we do know that various jihadist groups in the region have used Malaysia as transit point, probably to plan and for logistical purposes."

Over the past decade, Malaysian authorities have held more than 100 militant suspects, mainly alleged members of the al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been blamed for attacks including the 2002 bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali that killed 202 people.

The Home Minister refused to provide further details, saying it might jeopardize investigations.