The National Special Operations Force (NSOF) (Malay: Pasukan Operasi Khusus Nasional) is Malaysia’s main security force which serves as the first responder to any terror threats on the country’s sovereignty. The force covers elements from the Malaysian Armed Forces, Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. NSOF is the third Task Force attached to the National Security Council (NSC) (Malay: Majlis Keselamatan Negara Malaysia; MKN) after the Federal Special Task Force (PPKPS/L) and Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART).
The eight elements of Malaysia’s Special Operations Force have been tasked with the important objective of maintaining Malaysia’s security, specifically in combating terrorism. A mission especially important in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in a climate of global terrorism which would see the later bombing of the tourist centre of Bali and the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, bombings and murders in Southern Thailand and the bomb explosions in the railway stations and transit systems of Madrid and London. Malaysia’s security agencies eagerly studied the lessons to be learnt from all such incidents so as to prepare to deal with similar terrorism, in the event that the terrorists should see Malaysia as a target. In November 2003 Malaysia passed new counter-terrorism laws that were widely criticised by local human rights groups for being vague and excessively broad. Critics claim that the laws put the basic rights of free expression, association, and assembly at risk. Malaysia persisted in holding around 100 alleged militants without trial, including five Malaysian students detained for alleged terrorist activity while studying in Karachi, Pakistan. Malaysia maintains a high level of security and to date no similar terrorist atrocities have occurred.
Previously the only incidents with possible links to Islamic terrorism have been the detonation of a small bomb in Kuala Lumpur’s Puduraya bus station and more significantly the 2000 Sauk raid by Al-Ma’unah militants, an audacious raid to steal weapons from a military base to arm an Islamic insurrection. This attempted insurrection was swiftly defeated, the result of the close co-operation and relationship of the government, private agencies and society as a whole. A co-operation and relationship born from the initiatives that from 1948 to 1989 defeated the communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency and the later, the second insurgency. The Malaysian people is eager not to suffer for a third time in their history a repeat of previous insurgencies and terrorism.
In assessing the tactics, strength, equipment, personnel and abilities as a whole of the Malaysian special forces, they are equal in competence with the special forces teams of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In fact, since its creation Malaysian forces have been involved with these teams on the international level, for example whilst being part of United Nations peace keeping missions.