KUALA LUMPUR: Eight Indonesians were detained by Singapore customs authorities at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Tuesday (Jan 10) for possessing Islamic State images, media reports said.
The group was arrested while trying to enter Singapore at about 1.30am on Tuesday after the authorities found several of the images on one of their mobile phones, Malaysia’s Bernama news agency reported, citing an unidentified source.
The eight were then handed over to Malaysian police for further investigations, the report said. They were detained from 2.30am to 9am for questioning, and subsequently deported to Batam by ferry.
They have since been questioned by the Indonesian police’s special counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, the Jakarta Post reported.
Riau Islands Police Chief Inspector General Sambudi Gusdian was quoted as saying that the images found were of the Islamic State flag, an Islamic State “activity” and a homemade shoe bomb.
The eight ranged in age from 16 to 37 years, with most of them in their 20s, the Jakarta Post report said. The oldest, identified as Ridce Elfi Hendra, was said to be the leader of the group. The Islamic State images were found on his phone, the report said.
The reports said the group arrived in Kuala Lumpur by plane on Jan 3 from Padang in West Sumatra. They were in Malaysia to preach and for Ridce to seek medical treatment.
On Jan 7, the group travelled overland to Phatani in Thailand to learn about the education system at the Islamic Education Board in the district. They then returned to Malaysia and tried to enter Singapore on Monday, Bernama said.
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement on Thursday evening that Singapore authorities informed their Malaysian counterparts before deporting the eight men. "One of them was found in possession of images of security concern, including that of a shoe bomb as well as fighters from the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," an MHA spokesperson said.
The Jakarta Post said Malaysian authorities reached a “preliminary conclusion” after an investigation that the eight were not Islamic State followers, but "subscribed to the mainstream teachings of Islam that rejected Islamic State ideology".
The images came from a WhatsApp group Ridce had once joined, the report said. “(He) said he had left the group but did not know that the pictures had not yet been deleted,” Gen Sambudi said.
Densus 88 has a week to interrogate the group, the report said.