A Singaporean youth has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since April this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday (May 27).
Additionally, another youth was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation.
The youth detained since April, M Arifil Azim Putra Norja’i, a 19-year-old post-secondary student, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA.
Investigations showed that he had made plans to join the terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that his radicalisation began around 2013 when he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, said MHA.
The ministry said Arifil then grew to support the radical ideology and violent tactics of ISIS, and befriended individuals online whom he thought could help him join the terrorist group. Arifil also actively surfed the Internet for information on travel routes to Syria so that he could engage in armed violence there, and had done research on making improvised explosive devices.
Arifil also revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks in Singapore, said MHA. He had put “considerable thought” into how he would attack key facilities and assassinate Government leaders. If he was unable to carry out these plans, Arifil planned to carry out attacks in public places “in order to strike fear within our society”, using “easily available” weapons such as knives, added the ministry.
His intentions to carry out violent attacks were subsequently corroborated by several persons who said he had tried to recruit them to help carry out these plans, according to the MHA. Investigations showed that while these people did not fall prey to Arifil’s attempts to recruit them, they also did not alert the authorities about him, it added.
“Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him, and had brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate the matter and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore,” said MHA.
The ministry added that another radicalised Singaporean post-secondary youth, 17, was arrested in May under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation. His family was informed of his arrest, and will be kept informed of the outcome of the investigations.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said Singapore faces real threats from radicalisation, similar to other countries.
“Our community leaders have worked hard to counter radical ideology. And we should all, from all communities in Singapore, support one another. … All of us must play our part. If you know or suspect anyone who is becoming radicalised, please notify the authorities early,” Mr Teo said.
“You may be helping to save that person from harming himself and others. And our security agencies will do their utmost to detect and prevent any terrorist attacks.”
FAMILY, FRIENDS PLAY ROLE IN PREVENTING RADICALISATION
The ministry said the two young Singaporeans who have been radicalised demonstrate that youth in Singapore can become radicalised too, in particular through the internet.
The ministry said that family members, friends, colleagues and members of the public have an important role to play in protecting fellow Singaporeans from radicalisation and engaging in terrorist activities.
“This should be done early, so that Singaporeans at risk of becoming radicalised can be provided proper guidance, supervision and religious instruction, and be saved. Religious institutions and teachers also have an important role to play in engaging young Singaporeans when they have questions on religious matters, and steering them in the right direction,” said the MHA.
It added that anyone who knows or suspects that a person is radicalised should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).
“This could save such individuals and allow them to be helped and counselled, so that they are prevented from engaging in violent activities that may cause harm to themselves and others,” said the MHA.
THREE JI MEMBERS RELEASED
The MHA also announced in a separate release that three Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members were released in February and May this year after they were “assessed to no longer pose a security threat that required preventive detention”.
The JI members are Sahrudin Mohd Sapian, Mohamed Rafee Abdul Rahman and Mohamed Rashid Zainal Abidin, it said.
Sahrudin and Rafee were JI members detained under the ISA in February 2012. They had undergone terrorist training in Afghanistan in 2000, and both men were released from detention and placed on Restriction Orders (RO) on Feb 24, 2014, said MHA.
The ministry added that Rashid, who was detained under the ISA in May 2006, was a JI member who had undergone terrorist training in south Philippines. He was released from detention and placed on RO on May 26, 2014.
Additionally, the ROs against four JI members and one self-radicalised individual were allowed to lapse between June 2014 and April 2015. The JI members were Ab Wahab Ahmad, Syed Ibrahim, Ibrahim Mohd Noor and Jahpar Osman, while the self-radicalised individual was Muhammad Thahir Shaik Dawood.
“All five men had been cooperative and responsive to rehabilitation efforts,” said MHA.