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Malaysia arrests seven men with Islamic State links over attacks plot

  KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police have arrested seven men with links to the Islamic State militant group who were planning attacks on non-Muslim places of worship and other targets, authorities said on Saturday.

The Muslim-majority country has been on high alert since gunmen allied with Islamic State (IS) carried out a series of attacks in Jakarta, the capital of neighbouring Indonesia, in January 2016.

Six Malaysians were arrested in Johor state, north of Singapore, while a seventh, a Filipino member of the IS-linked Abu Sayyaf group, was detained in the eastern state of Sabah, in multiple operations between Feb. 27 and Mar. 15, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement.

He said the six detained in Johor were members of an IS cell and included a 37-year-old technician who recruited new militants and was believed to be the mastermind of planned attacks on non-Muslim places of worship in the state's capital.

A second suspect was a security guard who served as the cell's advisor and ensured members kept their activities secret. A third man was tasked with buying firearms from a neighbouring country and identifying targets for attacks, he said.

"All of them planned to escape to a neighbouring country and seek shelter from members of a militant group there after successfully carrying out the plan," Muhamad Fuzi said, without naming the country.

Authorities arrested three other members of the same cell in follow-up operations, including a 25-year-old restaurant worker who had been ordered to kidnap and kill police personnel.

Police also detained a 31-year-old Philippine national in Sabah, on Borneo island, who was said to be a trusted lieutenant to Abu Sayyaf group leader Furuji Indama and has links to Malaysian militant Mahmud Ahmad, Mohamad Fuzi said.

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