Two self-radicalised Singaporean boys given ISA orders; 15-year-old youngest to be detained
The other, a 16-year-old student, was issued a restriction order under the Internal Security Act after joining Islamic State-themed servers on gaming platform Roblox.
SINGAPORE: Two Singaporean teenagers were issued orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said on Tuesday (Feb 21).
The first, a 15-year-old boy, was a Secondary 3 student at the time of his arrest in November 2022. Issued with a detention order, he is the youngest person so far to be dealt with under the ISA.
The other Singaporean was issued with a restriction order after he was found to have joined multiple Islamic State-themed servers on online gaming platform Roblox.
Before Tuesday's announcement, a 16-year-old Singaporean boy was previously the youngest person to be dealt with under the ISA. He was detained in December 2020.
CONSIDERED ATTACKS IN TOURIST SPOTS
The 15-year-old had considered conducting attacks in Singapore, including using a knife to behead non-Muslims in popular tourist areas. He had also thought about being a suicide bomber, said ISD.
ISD said the student was self-radicalised early last year after first coming across podcasts by foreign segregationist preacher Ismail Menk.
Menk, a Zimbabwean Salafi preacher, has been banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015, because of his segregationist teachings, which promote religious disharmony.
"He was exposed to violent militant content including ISIS propaganda, and engaged in discussions with foreign personas who influenced him with their extremist beliefs," ISD said.
"By mid-2022, he was deeply radicalised, having become convinced that armed violence was permissible against 'disbelievers'. In his view, 'disbelievers' included Shia and Sufi Muslims, and non-Muslims.
"He also perceived those who 'oppressed' Muslims, enforced secular laws or obstructed the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, as 'disbelievers' who should be killed."
ISD added the youth harboured a strong desire to live in an Islamic caliphate governed by Syariah or Islamic law.
The teen also considered travelling to Afghanistan for this purpose but had yet to undertake any preparations at the point of his arrest.
He was also willing to "support any group that was seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore or abroad, including ... participating in armed jihad and ... viewed dying as a martyr to be the responsibility of all Muslims", said ISD.
SUPPORT FOR ISLAMIC STATE AND AL-QAEDA
The boy expressed support for Islamic State and regarded the militant group’s killing of Shia Muslims and Yazidis as being “justified", ISD said.
In August 2014, the Yazidi people, a religious minority living in the northern Iraqi region of Sinjar, were attacked by Islamic State militants, resulting in about 3,100 deaths in the first month.
The teen shared pro-Islamic State materials on his social media accounts and tried unsuccessfully to purchase the group's flag on e-commerce platforms in the latter half of 2022.
He also expressed support for Al-Qaeda, as he idolised the militant group's late founder Osama bin Laden and viewed him as "a defender of Islam".
The youth believed the terrorist group had defended Muslims from oppression, and regarded the 9/11 attacks as a justified act of retaliation against Americans who had killed “innocent Muslims”.
He made online postings expressing his support for Al-Qaeda by justifying violent actions carried out by its members.
The teen tried to share Islamic State and Al-Qaeda videos - including those showing beheadings - with his classmates, on top of trying to convince two foreign online contacts to join him in undertaking armed violence, but failed in his attempts to radicalise those he contacted, ISD added.
RESTRICTION ORDER ISSUED AGAINST ANOTHER TEENAGER
As for the 16-year-old boy, ISD said he was issued with a restriction order in January.
The Secondary 4 student "had been self-radicalised by online ISIS propaganda, and believed in the use of armed violence to establish an Islamic caliphate", said ISD.
The teenager first came to the attention of the authorities in November 2020 when he was 14 years old.
ISD’s investigations then found that he had an interest in far-right extremist content, including those which were anti-Semitic and supportive of neo-Nazi groups whose ideologies promoted a “race war”.
The teen was also attracted to Islamic eschatological prophecies after watching YouTube videos, and had come across Islamic State songs from online music streaming platforms.
He was then assessed to be vulnerable to radicalisation and was cautioned by ISD to steer clear of extremist content online.
However, the youth continued to view Islamic State materials and engaged in discussions with other social media users about the group.
He became convinced of the group's legitimacy and supported its "goal of creating an Islamic caliphate through violence, including through the use of beheadings, shootings, and suicide bombings", ISD said.
The boy joined multiple Islamic State-themed servers on online gaming platform Roblox.
The virtual game settings replicated physical Islamic State conflict zones, such as those in Syria and Marawi city in the southern Philippines.
The youth regarded himself as a member of the militant group in these games and had taken the pledge of allegiance to be an in-game "leader".
He acted as the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his in-game Islamic State faction, and said his support of the group in Roblox, such as shooting and killing of “enemies” in the game, was meant to mimic his desire to be a real-life member, ISD added.
To demonstrate his support for the Islamic State, he created and uploaded three propaganda videos onto social media between late 2021 and early 2022.
Using his Roblox game footage which showed the virtual Islamic State factions conducting attacks, the youth added the group's nasheeds or songs, and superimposed images of its flag to create the videos.
LINK ESTABLISHED TO ANOTHER TEEN DETAINEE
The two youths were online contacts of 18-year-old Singaporean Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohamad Nor, who was detained under the ISA in December 2022.
While all three individuals were self-radicalised separately, Irfan and the two youths subsequently became acquainted through the same extremist social media channel, but had not met physically nor discussed plans to travel together.
The family members of the 15-year-old and 16-year-old were not aware of their radical views or support for armed violence.
DANGERS OF ONLINE RADICALISATION
Extremist and terrorist groups are known to target youths for radicalisation and recruitment online as they may be more impressionable and easily influenced in their search for a sense of identity, purpose and belonging, ISD said.
Terrorist groups have also misused online gaming platforms, for example, by disseminating their ideological beliefs through video games, using in-game communication features to recruit vulnerable gamers and appropriating gaming culture to increase their reach to younger target audiences.
Since 2015, ISD has dealt with 11 self-radicalised Singaporean youths aged 20 or below under the ISA. All were radicalised online.
STUDIES TO CONTINUE
ISD said it has worked closely with the schools of both detainees to minimise any disruption to their education.
The 15-year-old has been provided with his school’s curriculum and study materials, to ensure he can continue with his studies while in detention.
ISD has also assigned him tutors who will prepare him for his national examinations.
The 16-year-old supervisee will be supported by his school principal, school counsellor and form teacher, and they will closely monitor his behaviour and progress while in school.
ISD said it "adopts a comprehensive and holistic approach in the rehabilitation of the detainees and RO (restriction orders) supervisees, comprising religious, psychological and social rehabilitation".
The 15-year-old detainee will undergo intensive religious counselling with two religious counsellors to address the religious misconceptions that led to his support for armed violence and terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The 16-year-old supervisee will undergo the same religious counselling and will participate in programmes conducted by the Religious Rehabilitation Group's Resource and Counselling Centre to "deepen his appreciation of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious context".
In addition, case officers will engage the youths regularly to guide them and assess their rehabilitation progress, ISD added.
Dr Mohamed Ali, co-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, said youths today spend a good amount of time online and have increased exposure to global conflicts.
However, they may not be equipped to manage and channel their unhappiness about such developments, he added.
When asked about the 15-year-old boy in particular, Dr Mohamed told CNA: "If he was not detained and arrested, there is a high possibility that he will influence others, especially his peers and friends to join him and even commit violence in Singapore."
Dr Mohamed noted that local religious groups have made progress to understand each other's beliefs and cultures.
"We must, however, be ever vigilant against foreign influences that seek to divide us as a Singaporean nation," he added.