Malaysia arrests 13 over 'Islamic State links'

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IS fighters in Raqqa - photo posted on Islamist website January 2014Image source, AP
Image caption,
Islamic State militants are attempting to recruit Malaysians to join their fight

Malaysian police have arrested 13 men and women planning to join the militant group Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

Officials have released no further details, but reports said the suspects included students and factory workers.

The authorities say a total of 36 Malaysians suspected of trying to join IS have been detained since April, and at least 30 others have managed to join the militant group.

Islamic State has taken over huge areas of both Syria and Iraq this year.

Social recruiting

On Tuesday Malaysian police stormed a restaurant in Shah Alam near Kuala Lumpur and arrested the group.

In a news conference, national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said Malaysia was "constantly monitoring these kinds of activities".

"Militancy and terrorism have no place in this country," he said.

Malaysian militants have been active on social media, gaining thousands of followers and encouraging recruits to join them.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Malaysian militants helped co-ordinate the 2002 Bali bombings

In June, Malaysia's foreign ministry said 15 Malaysians had supposedly died in Syria while fighting with IS.

A month later, Malaysian police claimed they thwarted an IS-inspired plot to bomb pubs, nightclubs and a brewery in the country.

Malaysia has been a base for Islamic militants before, including members of the al-Qaeda linked group Jemaah Islamiah.

The group is believed to be responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.

However, anti-terrorism actions by Malaysian authorities have helped reduce the activities of such groups.