40-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA for intending to join Islamic State in Syria

40-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA for intending to join Islamic State in Syria

File photo of handcuffs 03
Photo illustration of a man in handcuffs. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A 40-year-old Singaporean was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after investigations showed that he was "radicalised and harboured the intention" to travel to Syria to join Islamic State, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a press release on Tuesday (Jun 25).

The unemployed man was issued with an order of detention in January. 

Two other people – a food deliveryman and a production technician - were issued with restriction orders under the ISA for their involvement in terrorism-related conduct, said MHA. 

It added that four people were released from detention, including the first woman who was held under ISA for radicalisation.

The latest cases highlight the continued threat of self-radicalisation, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) in a statement, "especially when individuals do not verify the information they access online and fall prey to radical propaganda that exploit geo-political conflicts to boost their appeal".

"Such dangers are still prevalent online, even after extremist groups are physically defeated," it added. 

DETENTION ORDER

The man who was detained under ISA in January was identified as Imran Mahmood.

His radicalisation began sometime in 2013, said MHA, when he started listening to online lectures by foreign religious preachers, including those who preached about the imminent "coming of the end-times".

He became “a strong supporter” of Islamic State’s violent objectives and actions, said MHA.

“By 2014, Imran had developed a desire to live under ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Syria/Iraq and researched on viable entry points for himself into Syria. He was willing to take up arms to defend or expand ISIS’s territory, and believed that he would achieve martyrdom if he died fighting for ISIS,” the ministry added, referring to Islamic State by its other acronym.

When Islamic State started to suffer territorial losses in 2017, Imran questioned its legitimacy but did not denounce the militant group, said MHA.

“He continued to believe that it was his religious duty to fight alongside any group trying to establish a rightful caliphate in Syria, and that his radical views were legitimate,” it added.

Imran was also prepared to join other militant and terrorist groups involved in the Syrian conflict, namely the Free Syrian Army and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a faction aligned with the Al-Qaeda.

RESTRICTION ORDERS

Singaporean Mohamad Fairuz Junaidi, a 39-year-old food deliveryman, was issued with a restriction order in March after investigations found that he was influenced by Islamic State’s radical ideology and had considered travelling to Syria to join the group.

“Fairuz was emotionally affected by reports on the killing of Sunni Muslims in the Syrian civil war,” said MHA, adding that he was prepared to take up arms and fight alongside Islamic State.

“He believed that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so. He also refused to believe mainstream media reporting about ISIS’s atrocities, and saw them as fabrications to discredit the terrorist group.”

MHA added: “Fairuz began to have doubts about ISIS’s legitimacy in 2017 after he read negative reports about ISIS on Facebook, and was also swayed by criticisms against ISIS. He will undergo counselling/rehabilitation while on restriction order.”

The other person issued with a restriction order in March is Singaporean Rasidah Mazlan, a 62-year-old production technician.

MHA said investigations found that she had been in contact with multiple foreign entities suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities, including people who had expressed support for Islamic State.

“Investigations showed that Rasidah’s contacts with these individuals were mainly driven by her deep sympathy for Muslims suffering in overseas conflicts,” said the ministry.

“Her indiscriminate online activity rendered her vulnerable to adverse influence and recruitment by terrorist elements who pose a threat to Singapore. As such, she was placed on a restriction order to prevent her from resuming her contacts with such elements, and to allow her to undergo counselling/rehabilitation.”

RELEASE OF ISA DETAINEES

MHA also announced that four Singaporean ISA detainees were released in March and June.

They are:

  • Abd Rahim Abdul Rahman, 50, a former Jemaah Islamiyah member who was detained in March 2012;
  • Asyrani Hussaini, 30, who was self-radicalised and detained in March 2013 after he attempted to participate in the armed insurgency in Southern Thailand;
  • Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 24, the first woman detained for radicalism under ISA. A former contract infant-care assistant with the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots pre-school programme, she was detained in June 2017 for supporting Islamic State and harbouring the intention to travel to Syria to join the group;
  • Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 26, who was self-radicalised and detained in June 2017 for harbouring the intention to undertake armed violence in Syria.

“The four had shown good progress in their rehabilitation and assessed to no longer pose a security threat that require preventive detention,” said MHA.

“Abd Rahim’s detention was suspended with a Suspension Direction (SD)1 in March 2019. Asyrani was released on a restriction order when his order of detention expired in March 2019, while Izzah and Khairul were released on restriction orders when their orders of detention expired in June 2019.”

LAPSE OF RESTICTION ORDER

MHA also said that a restriction order issued in June 2015 against a then 17-year-old Singaporean for supporting Islamic State was allowed to lapse upon its expiry in June 2019, as he has shown good progress in his rehabilitation.

ARRESTS "FEW AND FAR IN BETWEEN": MUIS

While such arrests on terrorism-related conduct are "few and far in between", MUIS said it has stepped up community engagement efforts. 

This include engagements through the Asatizah Youth Network and publications such as the Contemporary Irsyad Series, which gives religious guidance on emerging issues.

Religious teachers have also been working with MUIS to counter the "ideology of hate and violence" propagated by online extremist groups by spreading positive messages, according to MUIS. 

"In addition, it is important to have strong support networks of family and friends whom individuals can turn to when they encounter extremist narratives online," MUIS said. 

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said on Tuesday he was "saddened" to find out that detention and restriction orders had been issued to the three Singaporeans. 

"These cases illustrate that there will always be those who are vulnerable to radicalisation and our vigilance against it is a continuing one," he wrote in a Facebook post. 

Source: CNA/gs(hm)

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