The suspect worked in aircraft maintenance for 13 years, a security expert says. He was arrested along with 14 other people in March. “This is a matter for concern,” says political scientist, because such a person could sabotage a plane, or place a bomb or “an improvised explosive device onboard”.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysian authorities have announced that one of 15 suspected Islamic State (IS) group supporters arrested in Malaysia is a senior aviation technician, the South China Morning Post reports.
The suspect, 49, is a former flight engineer for the Royal Malaysian Air Force who worked for 13 years at an aircraft maintenance company services chartered aircrafts for domestic flights for so-called “VVIPs”, a term often used to describe passengers who are corporate and political leaders.
His “responsibility was to check that an aircraft is safe for use. He is the person who gives the green light whether an aircraft is safe to take off or not,” a security official said.
He was arrested in late March along with 14 other suspects in an operation covering Malaysian six states as well as the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The other 14 suspects have all been charged in court, but investigations into the aviation engineer are continuing.
“He has conducted religious classes where he propagated ISIS ideology,” an official said.
“He is known to actively support ISIS* via his Facebook account. He has shown ISIS videos on his mobile phone to his friends with the aim of promoting ISIS.”
“This is a matter for concern because this is precisely what I and others have referred to as the ‘insider threat’ of transnational terrorism,” said Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“Such a person would have the ability, at least in theory, to sabotage an aircraft with VVIPs on board either by deliberately tampering with onboard systems, causing them to fail in mid-flight, or by placing an improvised explosive device onboard, assuming that he can gain access to one, or has the ability to make one himself,” Kumar said.
The engineer is the second suspect in Malaysia’s aviation industry to have been arrested over their alleged support for IS.
Last year, an armed auxiliary police officer who handled the screening of explosives and dangerous goods at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was arrested.
He is alleged to have helped his brother-in-law leave for Syria to fight for IS by escorting him through immigration.
So far, Malaysian police have arrested more than 160 IS suspects. At least 19 Malaysians are known to have died in Iraq and Syria fighting for IS, some of them as suicide bombers.
* ISIS is the acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and is another name for IS.