The deaths of Malaysian militant leaders Akel Zainal and Mohd Rafi Udin will reduce the intensity of recruitment for the Islamic State (IS) but not completely kill it, says a terrorism expert.
Dr Ahmad El-Muhammady, a political science lecturer at the International Islamic University of Malaysia, said the recruitment of Malaysians into the terror group might continue undetected in some cases.
“Their deaths will certainly have an impact among Malaysian IS fighters. While their deaths may reduce the intensity of recruitment, it will not completely kill it, ” he said.
Commenting on the power vacuum among Malaysian IS fighters in Syria following the deaths of Akel and Mohd Rafi, Dr Ahmad said there was no longer a central Malaysian figure in Syria.
“However, some people still have interest in the development of the terror group, ” he said.
Dr Ahmad also cautioned that although the terror group was entering into a hibernation period, it had the potential to rebound in the near future.
“They may embark on having smaller terror cells as well as keeping a low profile in terms of indoctrination of IS ideology and spreading their teachings, ” he said.
Akel, whose real name was Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, was killed along with his wife and two children when an airstrike hit his home in Baghouz, Syria, in March.
Mohd Rafi Udin, who was also known as Abu Awn Al-Malizi, was killed during an airstrike in January.
Bukit Aman Counter Terrorism Division head (E8) Deputy Comm Datuk Ayob Khan had said that intelligence showed that Akel was known to recruit Malaysians as well as issue orders to terror cells in Malaysia.
One of the last known orders given by Akel was earlier this year when he told a Singaporean businessman to recruit a few others to attack a Freemason building in central Johor Baru.
The attack was thwarted by E8, and the Singaporean suspect was arrested.
Akel, who had been fighting for IS in Syria since 2014, became the de facto leader of Malaysian militants when Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi was killed while Mohd Rafi was featured in a 2016 IS video which called for attacks against secular governments and their leaders.