By THE NATION
The cell, based in Kelantan in northeast Malaysia, was exposed when police arrested six people in a nationwide operation.
“The authorities believe they have been smuggling weapons for at least a year but it could have been longer than that,” a source told The Star.
Two members of the cell were arrested in Kelantan on March 24 and March 25 while others managed to escape to Golok.
Four other IS militants were detained in Malacca, Penang, Johor and Selangor in Malaysia in a major operation by the Bukit Aman Counter Terrorism Division.
Sources said that pump-action rifles, Colt M4 carbines and Glock pistols were among the types of weapons smuggled by the cell.
“The authorities believe the cell had five semi-automatic pistols, a pump-action gun and a Colt M4 carbine. However, there could be more that the authorities have not found,” another source said.
Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed the arrest of the two, aged 26 and 41, in Kelantan. “We believe they were involved in smuggling weapons from southern Thailand for the terror group,” he said.
Khalid said police were also looking for Muhammad Muzaffa Arieff Junaidi, 27, from Kampung Gertak, Rantau Panjang, Kelantan, the third member of the terror cell.
“We believe he belonged to the same terror cell as the two who were arrested in Kelantan.
“He managed to escape to southern Thailand via Sungai Golok, with an M4 carbine rifle and a pistol on March 22. He is also involved in smuggling weapons from Thailand,” he said.
Sources said Muhammad also acted as an intermediary with an IS cell in Thailand.
However, Fourth Army Region Commander Piyawat Nakwanich said yesterday that there was not an IS terrorist cell in the deep South, adding that violence in the deep South is a domestic issue.
The Army coordinated and exchanged intelligence information with Malaysian counterparts regularly, he said.
Meanwhile border checkpoints in the southernmost provinces Songkhla, Yala and Narathiwat were on alert after reports that Muhammad was fleeing to these areas.
A renewed spate of violence erupted in the predominantly Muslim region in 2004, claiming more than 6,800 lives.
Authorities in Bangkok have been struggling to contain the violence for more than a decade. Efforts to establish peace talks with the insurgents united under a group known as MARA Patani have not been successful and violence takes place almost every day.