Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia

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Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia

LEADERS: Zainon Ismail; Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Malaysia; Indonesia; southern Philippines


Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) appeared in 1995 with the goal of overthrowing the presiding Malaysian government and replacing it with an Islamic state. The state that the group seeks to create would include Indonesia and southern Philippines. The group has established ties with other Islamist extremist groups in the region to expand its message and activities. The group continues to operate despite a series of measures by the Malaysian government to impede the organization's growth and development.


Malaysia represents a mix of cultures and religions, and since its independence, has enjoyed decades of relative racial calm. In 1957, Malaysia gained its independence from Great Britain. The territories encompassed by Malaysia included the eastern states in Borneo of Sabah and Sarawah, Singapore, which opted out of the union in 1965, and Malaysia. The new nation adopted a flag based on the flag of the United States, with stripes representing the 14 Malaysian states and a square in the upper left-hand corner, which contains the moon and sun of Islam.

Malays were the majority population, resulting in a constitutionally guaranteed place in the government, Malay named as the national language, and Islam named as the national religion. The nation operates under a constitutional monarchy, allowing for a democratically elected government. In 1969, a series of initiatives was passed by the Malay-controlled government to provide increased economic opportunities for Malays. The action resulted in two years of violence after the opposition party won a significant number of seats in the government. Since then, race relations as well as economic growth have progressed. Much of the success is attributed to the leadership of the former prime minister, Mahathir bin Mohammed. However, the Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) and other pan-Islamic groups in the region, seek to over throw the politician's continued ruling coalition, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

Mahathir ruled the Malaysian government and his party, UMNO, from 1981 until his resignation in October 2003. His authoritarian rule and varied cooperation with the Western powers facilitated the development of the opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)—a group seeking the implementation of Islamic law into Malaysian governance. Other factors also fostered a political environment in which groups such as the KMM could develop. Approximately 1,000 mujahedin traveled from Southeast Asia to Afghanistan during the mid 1980s. Once there, the group received guerilla warfare training and religious schooling, focusing on Wahhabism—a fundamentalist sect of Islam that calls for strict adherence to Islamic law. Upon returning to Southeast Asia, these mujahedin began to establish schools called madrasses. These schools provided religious training for young Muslims in the region and began to promote the idea of a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

The financial growth of Malaysia, as well as its decline in the mid 1990s, also contributed to the development of organizations such as KMM. Malaysia's economy was one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia. However, the majority of the wealth held in Malaysia belonged to the ethnic Chinese population. In 1995, when the economies of Asia began to fail, the opposition led by the PAS capitalized on the disproportionate distribution of wealth. Many Muslims turned to the PAS for leadership during the time of economic crisis, as apparent in the rise in enrollment of students at the madrasses. This breakdown of secular institutions and the growth of the PAS marked the weakening of the UMNO.

One of the most important factors in Southeast Asia that has allowed for the growth of groups such as the KMM is the porous borders and financial institutions. Prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Malaysia had no visa requirement for nationals of Organization of the Islamic Confederation member states. This allowed the mujahedin from various Southeast Asian nations to move freely, train, and recruit new members virtually unnoticed.



Zainon Ismail is the founder of the KMM and served as its leader until 1999 when he was replaced by Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz. Ismail is a former mujahedin who trained in guerilla warfare and fought in Afghanistan against Soviet forces. He was inspired by the successes in Afghanistan and returned to Malaysia with the goal of a pan-Islamic state. Ismail was detained under the Internal Security Act in 2001 for suspected activities in connection with the KMM.


Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz is the current leader of the KMM. He was detained by the Malaysian government under the Internal Security Act in 2001 for planning jihad, possession of weapons, and membership in the KMM. His father is PAS opposition party leader Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nit Mat.

As a member of the mujahedin returning from Afghanistan, Zainon Ismail had been inspired by the religious and military training he had received. Upon his return, Ismail founded the KMM with the goal to overthrow the Mahathir coalition and replace the Malaysian government with an Islamic state. The goal of the KMM, as well as other like-minded groups forming in Southeast Asia by returning mujahedin, was a pan-Islamic state that would include Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern Philippines. Ismail served as leader of the KMM until 1999 when Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz became leader.

The attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, provided the Mahathir government the ammunition to attempt a marginalization of the PAS and Islamic fundamentalist groups, such as the KMM. The Mahathir government began its crackdown in mid 2001, but the attacks on the United States allowed an expansion of the government action. In August 2001, police arrested 10 men believed to be members of the KMM. The men's arrests occurred after a failed robbery attempt in Petaling Jaya. Investigations linked the men to robberies and the murder of Lunas state assemblyman, Dr. Joe Fernandez. Other activities the men were arrested for included a February 2001 raid on the Guar Chempedak police station and an October 1998 attempted murder of a couple in Jalan Klang Lama.

Since 2001, over 80 alleged KMM members have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The act allows for the two-year detention of anyone deemed a threat to national security, with a provision for the additional two-year extension. The members of the KMM have been detained under the charges of possession of weapons and planning jihad (holy war). Present leader Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz has also been detained under the ISA. Nik Adli is the son of PAS opposition leader, Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, causing many to believe that his incarceration is a political move.

Since 2001 and the detention of many of its members under the ISA, KMM activities have tapered off. However, the group's alliances with other pan-Islamic groups in the region have aided its continued existence.


KMM founded by Zainon Ismail.
Killing of Lunas state assemblyman Dr. Joe Fernandez considered unsolved until arrest of KMM members in 2001.
Attempted murder of couple in Jalan Klang Lama also considered unsolved until links are made after the 2001 arrest of 10 members of KMM.
Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz assumes leadership of the KMM.
KMM believed to be involved in explosion near a temple in Jalan Padu Lama on Deepavali eve.
Activities of the KMM are hampered as KMM members are detained as national security threats under the Internal Security Act. KMM members detained include Zainon Ismail and Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz, as well as several teachers from madrasses schools.


The KMM seeks the establishment of a pan-Islamic state to include Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern Philippines. In order to reach this goal, the group seeks to overthrow the presiding Malaysian government. In addition, the KMM has determined its enemies to be the secular governments within the region, as well as Western governments, namely the United States. The KMM has fostered alliances with other regional Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). JI religious leader Abu Bakar Bashir and operational leader Hambali have provided logistical and financial assistance to the KMM. In addition, the KMM has operational networks within Perak, Johor, Kedah, Selager, Terangganu, Kelantan, and the capital district of Wilayah Persukutuan. The KMM is believed to be self-financing, providing for its activities through robberies and kidnappings. The KMM and other regional groups recruit members from the madrasses schools established by mujahedin upon their return from Afghanistan. At least six of the men arrested under the Internal Security Act for connections to the KMM were instructors at such schools. Recruits are sent to Thailand for paramilitary training and are organized into cells.

Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM)


Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) favors the overthrow of the Malaysian Government and the creation of an Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines. Malaysian authorities believe an extremist wing of the KMM has engaged in terrorist acts and has close ties to the regional terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiya (JI). Key JI leaders, including the group's spiritual head, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, and JI operational leader Hambali, reportedly had great influence over KMM members. The Government of Singapore asserts that a Singaporean JI member assisted the KMM in buying a boat to support jihad activities in Indonesia.


Malaysia is holding a number of KMM members under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for activities deemed threatening to Malaysia's national security, including planning to wage jihad, possession of weaponry, bombings and robberies, the murder of a former state assemblyman, and planning attacks on foreigners, including US citizens. A number of those detained are also believed to be members of Jemaah Islamiya. Several of the arrested KMM militants have reportedly undergone military training in Afghanistan, and some fought with the Afghan mujahedin during the war against the former Soviet Union. Some members are alleged to have ties to Islamic extremist organizations in Indonesia and the Philippines. In September 2003, alleged KMM leader Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz's detention was extended for another two years. In March 2004, Aziz and other suspected KMM members went on a hunger strike as part of an unsuccessful bid for freedom, but the Malaysian court rejected their applications for a writ of habeas corpus in September. One alleged KMM member was sentenced to 10 years in prison for unlawful possession of firearms, explosives, and ammunition, but eight other alleged members in detention since 2001 were released in July and in November. The Malaysian Government is confident that the arrests of KMM leaders have crippled the organization and rendered it incapable of engaging in militant activities. Malaysian officials in May 2004 denied Thailand's charge that the KMM was involved in the Muslim separatist movement in southern Thailand.


KMM's current membership is unknown.


The KMM is reported to have networks in the Malaysian states of Perak, Johor, Kedah, Selangor, Terengganu, and Kelantan. They also operate in Kuala Lumpur. According to press reports, the KMM has ties to radical Indonesian Islamic groups and has sent members to Ambon, Indonesia, to fight against Christians and to the southern Philippines for operational training.


Largely unknown, probably self-financing.

Source: U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Terrorism. Washington, D.C., 2004.


The Malaysian government has come under pressure by human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, for its detention of KMM members. Since 2001, over 80 alleged members of KMM have been detained, many of them without trial or formal charges. The Internal Security Act allows for a two-year detention of anyone deemed a threat to national security. The detention can be extended, as in the case of Zainon Ismail, who was arrested in 1999 and was still under detention in September 2005.

Opponents of the Internal Security Act state that the Malaysian government's "first duty is to prove the existence of the KMM." These human rights watch groups believe that the detention of KMM members is a political plot to weaken the Islamic fundamentalist opposition party, PAS. Amnesty International states, "The authorities claimed that both groups [KMM and JI] were planning to use violent means to set up a pan-Islamic state in southeast Asia. No evidence to support these allegations was made public, and none of the detainees was brought to trial." The detention of Nik Adli Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz, the son of opposition party leader, Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nit Mat, adds fuel to this argument.


The KMM was established in 1995 by former mujahedin, Zainon Ismail, with the expressed goal to overthrow the Malaysian government. Upon accomplishing this goal, the KMM seeks the creation of a pan-Islamic state covering Indonesia, Malaysia, and the southern Philippines. The group is believed to be self-financing through robberies and its alliances with like-minded groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah. Since the Malaysian government began to detain suspected KMM members in 2001, the activities of KMM have been hampered. However, the connections and support from alliances such as JI have allowed the group's continued existence.



Abuza, Zachary. "The War on Terrorism in South East Asia." Strategic Asia. 2003–2004: pp. 321-364.

Aziz, A.A. "The Burden of Terrorism in Malaysia." Prehospital Disaster Medicine. 2003: no. 18(2), pp. 115-119.

Web sites

Amnesty International. "Malaysia." 〈http://web.amnesty.org/web/web.nsf/print/AE8AB1DFBF598CA680256D3A0046B443〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The Nexus Between Counterterrorism, Counterproliferation, and Maritime Security in Southeast Asia." 〈http://www.csis.org/pacfor/issues/v04n04_ch3.cfm〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

CNN.com/World. "South East Asia's Crackdown." 〈http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/southeast/01/07/terror.factbox/〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

Global Security. "Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia." 〈http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/kmm.htm〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. "The Story of NLM Historical Collections." 〈http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/about/collectionhistory.html〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia." 〈http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=4401〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

Time: Asia. "Untangling the Web." 〈http://www.time.com/time/asia/news/magazine/0,9754,197713,00.html〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).

U.S. Department of State. "Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2003, April 2004." 〈http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/31947.pdf〉 (accessed October 11, 2005).


Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)