SINGAPORE: Two Singaporeans have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for intending to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Thursday (Jul 25).
In a press release, the ministry said that the first case involved 36-year-old licensed money changer Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen, who had been a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim.
Haja was arrested in May this year.
"Zahran has been identified by the Sri Lankan authorities as the mastermind and one of the suicide bombers involved in the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019 which killed more than 250 people and injured 500 others," said MHA.
Since 2011, Haja had been listening to Zahran's online lectures and regularly contacted him for religious guidance. He also made three trips to Sri Lanka between May 2015 and October 2016 to visit the preacher, and donated funds to Zahran and his group, the National Thowheed Jamaath.
Investigations did not surface any indication that Haja was involved in or had prior knowledge of the Apr 21 attacks in Sri Lanka, the ministry added.
Haja developed an interest in IS in 2013, when he came across news of the terrorist group online. MHA said he supported IS' so-called caliphate and its violent cause, and searched online for video clips of IS-linked atrocities and terror attacks, including videos of its beheadings and recordings of the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
"Haja harboured a desire to undertake armed jihad in Syria," said MHA.
From 2015, he conducted extensive research online in relation to his plan to migrate to Syria to join IS, but eventually decided against travelling there for fear of being killed or injured. However, his support for IS continued.
The second case involved Suderman Samikin, a 47-year-old former delivery assistant, who was arrested in July.
MHA said Suderman was radicalised after encountering lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an "Al-Qaeda ideologue" who is now dead, and IS propaganda while searching online in 2013 for information on the Syrian conflict.
"He soon bought into ISIS’s violent ideology and by February 2014, was prepared to take up arms to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, in the belief that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so," the ministry said.
Suderman joined a pro-IS Facebook group, reportedly created by a Syria-based IS fighter, in April 2014. He "actively sought advice" on how to join IS and was directed to online sources where he learned about travel routes to Syria, according to MHA.
He also became acquainted with foreign pro-IS elements through the Facebook group and was prepared to help when two of them wanted to visit Singapore to purchase tactical apparel for their participation in the armed conflict in Syria. However, the duo’s visit did not materialise.
Suderman also offered one of the two pro-IS contacts financial assistance to undertake armed violence in Syria. In turn, the duo invited Suderman to join an overseas pro-IS group in which they were involved.
MHA stated that Suderman was in prison from July 2014 to Jun 2019 for drug consumption, There, he continued to harbour the intention to join IS. He was arrested upon his release.
IMPACT OF IS INFLUENCE "REGRETTABLE": MUIS
In a statement on Thursday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said it was "regrettable that both individuals fell prey to ISIS influence online ... despite the debunking of ISIS' radical ideologies on mainstream and social media", referring to the Islamic State by its other acronym.
MUIS said the recent cases reinforce the "dangers of seeking religious guidance over the Internet from untrusted sources, particularly those from overseas".
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There is a need to "remain vigilant against exclusivist and extremist teachings", it said, urging the Muslim community to seek religious guidance only from credible teachers and schools registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, which it described as having" robust mechanisms in place to preserve and protect the religious life of the community".
Family members and friends who want to help an individual showing signs of radicalisation may contact MUIS at 6359 1199 or the Religious Rehabilitation Group at 1800 774 7747.
RECENT ISA ARRESTS
Just last month, 40-year-old Imran Mahmood was also detained under ISA for intending to join IS in Syria.
In March, 39-year-old food deliveryman Mohamad Fairuz Junaidi was issued a restriction order after investigations found he was influenced by IS' radical ideology and had considered travelling to Syria to join the group.
That same month, 62-year-old production technician Rasidah Mazlan, who is also Singaporean, was issued a restriction order after she was found to have been in contact with multiple foreign entities suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities, including people who expressed support for IS.
MHA also announced at the time the release of four Singaporean ISA detainees who had "shown good progress in rehabilitation and assessed to no longer pose a security threat that required preventive detention".
Among them was Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, the first woman detained for radicalism under the ISA in Singapore.