SINGAPORE: An auxiliary police officer who was deployed to Woodlands Checkpoint has been detained for planning to travel to Syria to take part in armed violence, while his colleague has been put under a restriction order for supporting him.
Singaporean Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, an auxiliary police officer at the traffic enforcement division at Woodlands Checkpoint, was arrested in May and detained under the Internal Security Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday (Jun 20).
He was deployed by AETOS, the second-largest of three licensed auxiliary police organisations in Singapore, to the checkpoint as an outrider. His duties did not require him to be armed, MHA said.
Khairul became radicalised as early as 2012 – prior to joining AETOS in May 2015 – when he went online to gather more information about the conflict in Syria after reading about it on mainstream media.
“He developed the view that the conflict in Syria was a sectarian struggle between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, and being a Sunni Muslim, he wanted to fight against the Shi’ites in Syria by joining the Free Syrian Army,” the ministry said.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a group founded by defectors of the Syrian Armed Forces, whose aim is to use armed violence to overthrow the Syrian government led by President Bashar Al-Assad, who is backed by the minority Shia Alawite sect.
Khairul perceived the Syrian conflict to be a holy war in which he was prepared to die in battle as a martyr and receive “divine rewards”, MHA said.
In 2014, he tried to reach out to a foreign militant on Facebook, as well as two other individuals whom he believed to be FSA supporters, to find out how he could make his way to Syria.
At the time of his arrest, Khairul was still interested in joining FSA or any other militant groups operating in Syria and engage in armed violence there, the ministry said.
“His readiness and proclivity to resort to violence in pursuit of a religious cause makes him a security threat to Singapore,” it said.
The ministry also reiterated that friends or relatives of a person who may be radicalised or intends to undertake acts of violence should report him to the authorities.
In the case of Khairul, several relatives and friends knew of his intentions but none of them came forward, MHA said.
RESTRICTION ORDER IMPOSED ON COLLEAGUE
Khairul’s colleague, Mohamad Rizal Wahid, was put under a restriction order in June for supporting his intentions to fight in Syria.
A person issued with a restriction order is not allowed to move, change jobs, or travel out of Singapore without the authorities’ approval.
Rizal, 36, was also an AETOS auxiliary police officer at the Woodlands Checkpoint, and was deployed as an armed officer conducting security duties.
He had been aware since 2015 that Khairul wanted to take part in armed violence in Syria after the latter repeatedly confided in him about his intentions, MHA said.
However, he not only failed to notify the authorities or AETOS management, and even suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria, it said.
Although Rizal did not share Khairul’s desire to participate in armed violence, as an auxiliary police officer, he should have been aware of the prevailing terrorism threat, the ministry said. His failure to dissuade Khairul and report him to his superior officer was a “serious lapse of judgement”, it added.
“The Government takes a serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place.
“This is particularly so if the person involved is a public servant, and especially if he or she is a uniformed officer.”
Anyone who supports or abets another person’s radicalisation or intention to undertake violence also poses a security threat to Singapore and Singaporeans, MHA said.
In a statement AETOS said that it had extended its "fullest cooperation" to the authorities in their investigations.
"We will also seek the assistance of the authorities to educate our employees on the risks of self-radicalisation, and our ground commanders to better look out for signs of radicalisation amongst their officers," the security management firm said.
16 RADICALISED SINGAPOREANS DEALT WITH SINCE 2015
At least 16 radicalised Singaporeans have been put under restriction or detention orders under the Internal Security Act since 2015, up sharply from 11 cases between 2007 and 2014, according to data from the ministry.
Earlier this month, Singapore announced its first detention of a female citizen for radicalism. Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old contract infant-care assistant, had been posting pro-Islamic State material online since 2014 and was also looking for an Islamic State fighter in Syria to marry.