Ex-PAS leader, rock musician join rebels
A FORMER leader in an opposition Islamic party and a rock musician are two of the fighters who have made their way to Syria and Iraq to aid militants led by the hardline Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Former Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) leader Lotfi Ariffin has been identified as one of the Malaysians who have joined the jihadist movement.
Lotfi regularly posts pictures and videos of himself and other militants for his nearly 19,000 Facebook followers.
One of those followers, 21-year-old Malaysian Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, was inspired to join him in Syria, according to a video posted on his Facebook page on May 15, showing him side by side with Lotfi and another Malaysian fighter.
"At the beginning, I got in touch with ustaz (teacher) Lotfi," Fadhlan says. "The ustaz told me how much I would need for the trip."
Another Malaysian militant who has been featured prominently on pro-militant websites and blogs is Ali Ukay, a former drummer with a 1990s Malay pop group, which had a string of hit songs.
He is said to have been influenced by Lotfi and had joined the latter in entering Syria, where both are seen heavily armed and in fatigues.
Malaysians are believed to have been recruited by the ruthless Jabhat Al-Nusra, or the Al Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda offshoot behind beheadings and murders operating in Syria and Lebanon.
PAS said it terminated the membership of Lotfi last month following his alleged involvement with a militant group in Syria.
"We carried out our own investigation and decided to terminate Lotfi's membership.
"This is to serve as a warning to all our members not to associate themselves with any militant groups, as we do not condone violence," secretary-general Mustafa Ali said.
At least 30 Malaysians and 56 Indonesians are estimated by security officials to have gone to fight in Syria, although security analysts say the real number is likely higher.
Malaysian police have arrested at least 16 suspected militants since April who they said were believed to have ties to ISIS.
Malaysian media, citing an ISIS website, reported that a Malaysian named Ahmad Tarmimi carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq last month.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS