30 Malaysians join Iraq rebels
A MALAYSIAN who became the first suicide bomber from the country is not the only extremist to have joined the terrorist group that has torn Iraq apart.
No fewer than 30 Malaysians have joined the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the New Straits Times (NST) reported yesterday.
The group has been recruiting in Malaysia for several years, the paper said, and will continue to do so.
Sources told NST that many Malaysians were planning to enlist.
Some even sell their homes to fund the group's struggle. They are motivated to join as they view the group as "protecting and liberating Sunni Muslims from oppression", NST said.
The conflict in Iraq is largely sectarian, with the Sunni ISIL pitted against the minority Shi'ite government, which is said to have alienated Iraq's Sunni Muslim population.
"Some of the Malaysians who joined ISIL's battles were also known to have been killed in action, while many have stayed there to continue fighting," a source told NST.
They include Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, a 26-year-old factory worker regarded as the first Malaysian suicide bomber.
According to local media reports, Ahmad Tarmimi drove a sport utility vehicle filled with explosives into Iraq's Special Weapons and Tactics' headquarters in Al Anbar province on May 26, before blowing it up and killing 25 soldiers and himself.
He had reportedly been trained by militants in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, last year before travelling to Iraq, The Straits Times said.
ISIL has grown rapidly, from a "ragtag band of extremists to perhaps the most cash-rich and capable terror group in the world", according to a report in The Guardian.
Even before they seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, last week, ISIL had assets of US$875 million (S$1.1 billion), intelligence officials said. After Mosul, they now have upwards of US$2 billion.
With the outbreak of civil war in Syria three years ago, ISIL saw new opportunities for growth.
It gained strength in Syria through a two-prong approach of launching strategic attacks to seize resources like arms caches, oil wells and granaries, and of avoiding protracted battles with government forces that have ground down Syria's other rebels.
ISIL also raised millions of dollars after selling priceless objects taken from archaeological digs.