Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia had a brief security scare at the weekend after 21 guns and more than 500 rounds of ammunition were stolen from an armoury at a paramilitary camp in the northern state of Terengganu. Although small in scale, the immediate concern was that it could be the work of militants. The theft also occurred on the same day that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi arrived in Terengganu to attend an official function.
To the relief of everyone, all the stolen arms were recovered in less than 24 hours following the arrest of three suspects. Two of the suspects are policemen who had been assigned to the camp recently while the third is a technical school student. All the suspects are in their 20s.
The guns and bullets were found in a bag placed in front of a police station in Malacca, some 600km from the scene of the crime.
Inspector-General of Police, Mr Bakri Omar, said the success in solving the case swiftly was due to thorough checks carried out by police and restricting the movement of personnel at the camp since the loss of the firearms was discovered in the early hours of Nov 3.
"The case is solved. The criminals have been arrested, the stolen weapons have been recovered and police will continue investigation to prepare the papers for the purpose of prosecution," he said on Nov 4.
Prime Minister Abdullah has ordered security to be tightened at all armouries in the wake of the heist. He said he did not want a repeat of the incident.
Although the police consider the case solved, the New Straits Times said several questions remain unanswered: Why would anyone steal the guns and ammunition and then leave them in front of a police station? Why in Malacca and not in Terengganu? How were the guns taken out of the camp in the first place? What was the motive for the theft? And how is a student connected with this?
Mr Bakri said police are still investigating the "the actual purpose of their breaking into the armoury and stealing the weapons".
This is not the first time that an arms raid had taken place at a security camp. In July 2002, more than 100 weapons were stolen when 15 members of a local mystical-militant group, Al-Maunah, posed as soldiers to drive into two military bases in Perak to steal the weapons.
* Armoury break-in: Firearms recovered, case solved (New Straits Times, Dec 5)
* Stolen firearms from PGA camp recovered, three men detained (Bernama, Dec 4)