Malaysian PM defends strict security laws designed to fight terrorism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's leader on Monday defended the country's strict security laws, saying they are needed to fight terrorism as the Islamic State group warned of revenge over a crackdown on its members.

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Prime Minister Najib Razak said the terrorism threat is "very real" and that the laws are crucial to ensure Malaysia is not open to infiltration. Opening a two-day international counter-terrorism conference, Najib said he will not apologize for taking steps to preserve national security.

"There are no civil liberties under Daesh and there are no shields against those who are set on committing acts of terrorism. The best way to uphold civil liberties is to ensure the safety of the nation," Najib said.

Daesh is the term used by some to refer to the Islamic State group.

Human rights activists have slammed a law implemented last year that revives detention without trial. Critics also voiced fears that another law approved last month that gives sweeping powers to a council led by the prime minister could be a step toward dictatorship.

Police earlier said the Islamic State group had posted a video that warns of attacks over the arrest of its members.

Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who heads the national police counter-terrorism unit, said on the sidelines of the conference that the video carried the Islamic State group logo and featured two Malaysians based in Syria. He said there were previous videos with similar warnings, but this was the first video with a logo of the militant group.

"They threaten to carry out attacks in Malaysia" if their members are not released and more are arrested, said Ayob, vowing that police will step up their operations.

On Sunday, police said they had detained seven men suspected of being an Islamic State militant cell that was plotting attacks. The seven Malaysians were detained in several states over three days after the Jan. 15 detention of a man police said was planning a suicide attack in Kuala Lumpur.

Police also seized bullets, jihad books and Islamic State group flags and videos.

Malaysia raised its security alert level following the Jan. 14 attacks in neighbouring Indonesia that left seven people dead.

Earlier at the conference, Australia and Indonesian officials said their governments plan to bolster their anti-terrorism laws.

Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said Parliament passed anti-terrorism legislation last year to allow agencies to better investigate and prosecute extremists and their supporters.

Keenan said laws planned for this year would allow a control order to be imposed on a teenager as young as 14 years old.

Indonesia's anti-terrorism official, Irjen Petrus Golose, said a taskforce has been set up to formulate stronger anti-terrorism laws following the recent bomb blasts. He did not give details.

In Indonesia, it is not an offence to support the Islamic State group nor to travel abroad for military training - both which are banned in Malaysia.


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