Malaysian mobsters enlisting teenagers on Facebook

Malaysia has announced a major crackdown on criminal gangs using social networking sites like Facebook to enlist teenage recruits as "street fighters", reports said Wednesday.

Home minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the government was launching the offensive after a proliferation of online recruitment pages in recent months, the Star daily reported.

"The ministries, including the Information, Communications, and Culture Ministry, the (multimedia) commission and the police will be brought in to tackle the issue," he was quoted as telling the paper.

"They all have their own expertise and it is just a matter of coordinating them to achieve the goal," Hishammuddin added.

He said authorities would treat all types of organised crime - from money laundering to drug trafficking - with the same gravity as terrorism, the paper reported.

"They are all related and are a serious threat not only at the national level but also the international level," he said. A senior aide to the minister confirmed the comments but declined to give further details.

Local papers highlighted Tuesday how underworld groups were using Facebook and other social media to recruit members, the majority of whom are still at secondary school.

The Star quoted several students including one identified as "Aru" saying that he was invited to join the "36 or Satu Hati (United)" gang through a Facebook wall posting that granted access to the gang's website.

Potential recruits are made to fill in long questionnaires asking about previous gang fight experiences and their willingness to be trained as "street fighters".

"Once all the questions are answered, you would become their Facebook pal," he told the paper.

"There is a life membership fee of 36 ringgit ($12). Payment is made through online banking," Aru said, adding that there were also pictures of senior gang members offering alcohol to entice students to join.