SINGAPORE: The risk of enlisting a radicalised serviceman exists, as full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) are drawn from the entire male population at large, said the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) on Thursday (Nov 9).
The ministry was responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries following news that a 19-year-old NSF was arrested after becoming radicalised.
Adzrul Azizi Banjuri, a former logistics assistant in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), was exposed to radical material online and supported Islamic State. He was issued with a Restriction Order under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in September this year, and will be required to undergo counselling.
MINDEF said Adzrul's interest in extremist ideology began when he was in a local secondary school three years ago.
“Adzrul’s individual radical beliefs do not represent our national servicemen who dutifully serve to protect their loved ones, regardless of race or religion,” said a spokesperson for MINDEF, describing the ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces as a “microcosm” of Singapore society at large.
Adzrul was one of three Singaporeans recently dealt with under the ISA for terror-related activities.
“While serving his NS, Adzrul started having doubts about the legitimacy of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ideology and its violent tactics,” said the MINDEF spokesperson.
"Hopefully the counselling and correct religious instruction that he receives will assist in de-radicalising his extremist views."
In a separate statement on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said there are no indications that Adzrul radicalised any of his fellow national servicemen.
Under the Restriction Order, Adzrul must abide by several conditions such as not travelling out of Singapore. He is also not allowed to change his place of residence or employment without prior approval from the director of the Internal Security Department.
RELATIVES AND FRIENDS DID NOT INFORM AUTHORITIES: MHA
MHA said that Adzrul’s radicalisation was left unchecked because no one came forward to report him.
“Although some of his relatives and associates had seen indications of his radicalism, they did not inform the authorities,” said MHA in response to media queries.
It added, however, that one person whom Adzrul had mentioned his pro-IS inclinations to had tried to counsel him against having such beliefs.
“His (Adzrul's) case and others this year show how challenging it is for the authorities to detect individuals who are self-radicalised. It is therefore critical that if people are aware that someone they know is radicalised, they should quickly report to the authorities, before the individual gets involved in terrorist conduct," said MHA.
Since 2010, two NSFs have been arrested under the ISA for radicalism, and MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces “have drawn valuable lessons” from these cases, said the defence ministry spokesperson.
MINDEF pointed out that National Education programmes for SAF soldiers emphasise the importance of racial and religious harmony through understanding, accepting and respecting people of other races and religions, adding that “actual incidents” are used to illustrate how racial and religious discord can weaken the military force.
“The SAF also has sufficient safeguards in place to maintain operational and weapons security, which includes personnel screening procedures and supervision by commanders to ensure that servicemen are fit to carry out their duties in the SAF,” said the spokesperson.