Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia's police chief said on Monday that 17 suspected militants have been detained for allegedly plotting to carry out terrorist acts in the country's largest city, Kuala Lumpur.
Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the 17 were detained on Sunday. Khalid tweeted that two of them had just returned from Syria. He didn't give details, and a police official said a statement will be issued later.
Since last year, the government has detained scores of Malaysians believed to be supporters of the Islamic State militant group.
The latest detentions came just days after the Home Ministry proposed two new anti-terror laws that will reintroduce indefinite detention without trial and allow the seizure of passports of anyone suspected of supporting terror acts in a bid to curb suspected militant activities in the country.
Also Read: 2 Malaysians identified in ISIS beheading video from Syria
Critics criticised the move as a revival of a controversial security law that was repealed in 2012 and warned the proposed laws could severely curtail civil liberties.
Opposition lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar said in a statement that the new laws could be misused against political opponents.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act bill will allow authorities to detain suspects indefinitely without trial and the decision cannot be challenged in court. The Special Measures Against Terrorism in Foreign Countries bill empowers authorities to suspend or revoke the travel documents or any citizens or foreigners believed to be engaging in or supporting terrorist acts.
"The draft counter-terrorism law is like a legal zombie returned from the grave of the discredited and abusive Internal Security Act," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Other proposals will increase penalties for terror-related acts, including up to 30 years in prison for those found receiving terrorism training or instruction.
The proposed bills will be debated in parliament this week.