Malaysia has freed a terrorist notorious for making biological weapons – here’s what we know

This is Yazid’s third time being released from jail, bringing his total duration behind bars to 12 years.
  • Yazid Sufaat, 55, a biochemist with ties to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, has been freed from a Malaysian jail.

  • Authorities have detained him for two years, the maximum duration under Malaysia’s Prevention of Terrorism Act.

  • Yazid is notorious for his attempt to create weapons of mass destruction for Al-Qaeda using a lethal disease.

  • Malaysia Police said it was not right to extend Yazid’s jail term “based on people’s perception”.

After spending two years in a Johor jail, Yazid Sufaat is now a free man – though authorities will continue to watch him closely given his close links to militant groups Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Jemaah Islamiyah.

The US-trained biochemist was detained under Malaysia’s Prevention of Terrorism Act for two years – the maximum duration allowable under the Act, which permits police to jail suspects without trial.

This is the 55-year-old’s third time being released, bringing his total duration behind bars to 12 years.

Yazid was freed from Simpang Renggam Detention Centre on Wednesday (Nov 20), The Star quoted Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division head Ayob Khan as saying.

He will have to wear an electronic monitoring device, remain within Kuala Lumpur’s Ampang district, and report to the Ampang police station twice a week, The Star’s report added.

In addition, Yazid will be under police surveillance and cannot access the Internet, The Straits Times (ST) reported, adding that authorities would re-evaluate his situation in two years’ time.

Quoting an intelligence source, ST added that Yazid’s release was secured in part because the Prison Department indicated that he appeared to have repented for his crimes.

According to The Star’s report, Yazid, a former army captain, had previously recruited terrorists for ISIS and Al-Qaeda both inside and outside of jail, earning him his current jail term and an earlier one from 2013 to 2014.

He also sheltered the two hijackers of the September 11 suicide bombings in his Kuala Lumpur home, Reuters reported – resulting in a six-year jail term from 2002 to 2008.

Citing a Kuala Lumpur High Court hearing in 2015, ST said Yazid had undergone military training in Afghanistan and met terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

In the 1990s, he tried to create weapons of mass destruction to use against Afghanistan by loading a lethal strain of anthrax (an infectious disease) onto weapons.

In 2000, he also attempted to bomb neighbouring Singapore using four tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a common fertiliser ingredient often used in explosives, ST said.

Yazid possesses degrees in biological science and chemistry from California State University.

Describing him as “the most challenging militant” for authorities to rehabilitate so far, national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador said on Oct 23 that the police understood public concerns around freeing Yazid, ST said in a separate report.

However, it was not right to extend his detention “based on people’s perception”, he added.

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