Report: Malaysian al-Qaeda suspect linked to 9/11 could be out of prison next month

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Bukit Aman counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay says the final decision to release Malaysian terrorist Yazid Sufaat has not been made yet by the Prevention of Terrorism Board, but his detention period will expire this November. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 ― Malaysian terrorist Yazid Sufaat, the suspect caught with four tons of ammonium nitrate for a planned series of bombings in Singapore in 2000, could be freed from prison next month, The Straits Times reported.

The 55-year-old US-trained biochemist is expected to be released from Simpang Renggam prison where he had spent two years in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), which allows the authorities to detain a suspect without trial for that period of time.

Yazid, said to be a member of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network, has been imprisoned three times in the past 17 years for terrorist-related activities.

“The final decision to release him has not been made yet by the Prevention of Terrorism Board, but his detention period will expire this November,” Bukit Aman counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told The Straits Times.

“Whether or not the detention order will be extended, the decision will be made before the expected date of release.”

Ayob declined to reveal the exact date.

In the 1990s, Yazid attempted to cultivate and load anthrax onto weapons in Afghanistan.

His house in Kuala Lumpur was also used by senior al-Qaeda members for meetings, one of which discussed plans to crash planes in the United States on September 11, 2001, news media reported.

He is the only Malaysian with direct links to the attacks.

Despite spending almost two decades behind bars and undergoing an extensive deradicalisation programme, Yazid was reported to remain totally unrepentant.

Ayob said that Yazid has the ability to easily recruit and incite people despite his limited knowledge of Islam.

The convicted militant is said to have distorted verses of the Quran ― Islam's holy scripture ― to justify his terror acts.

“At Tapah prison, some inmates were radicalised by him, that’s how dangerous he is. Till this day, Yazid remains the most challenging militant for us to rehabilitate,” Ayob said.

Yazid, a former army captain, was first arrested in 2002 under the Internal Security Act (ISA). He was released in 2008 after undergoing rehabilitation and showed signs of “remorse” and “repentance”.

But just five years later, he was detained for the second time under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) ― the legislation that replaced the ISA ― for recruiting new members for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He served a four-year sentence in Perak's Tapah prison.

Yazid was again arrested in December 2017 under Pota after the authorities found that he had been recruiting fellow inmates for al-Qaeda while in jail.

Throughout the years as a militant, Yazid reportedly held weekly religious classes in 2012 at his house in Ampang, Selangor, where he recruited several individuals including a then 21-year-old man, Muhamad Razin Sharhan Mustafa Kamal.

Razin told the Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2015 that Yazid had undergone military training in Afghanistan, met Osama Bin Laden and had taken part in conflict or what the militants dubbed as “jihad”.

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