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Islamic State called on Muslims in Singapore to join terror group: Report

Singapore continues to feature in the propaganda of such militant groups and remains a high-value target, says a think-tank.

Islamic State called on Muslims in Singapore to join terror group: Report

An Islamic State fighter raising its militant black flag over a building in Syria. (File photo: AFP/Welayat Raqa)

SINGAPORE: The Islamic State group in September 2022 called on Muslims in Singapore - along with those in other Asian states - to come forward to join the terror group, according to a report published by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on Tuesday (Jan 3).

In an annual threat assessment as part of RSIS' regularly published Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, the think-tank's dean Kumar Ramakrishna said to "take heed" of an audiotape released last year by Islamic State's media affiliate Al-Furqan.

In the 36-minute recording, Islamic State spokesman Abu Umar al-Muhajir called on Muslims around the world to join the ranks of the militant group.

He "especially" called on Muslims in East Asia - from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and other countries - to join Islamic State since they were "especially oppressed and humiliated in this region", according to a transcript by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Israel.

Abu Umar also called on Islamic State operatives in East Asia to fight against "communists" and "infidels" in their countries.

In response to queries from CNA, Singapore's Internal Security Department (ISD) on Friday said it was aware of the audiotape, adding that it was not the first time that terrorist groups have featured or mentioned the country in their propaganda.

"ISD has not picked up any specific or credible terrorist threat to Singapore thus far arising from this audiotape," it said. 

The agency urged the public to remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism and online radicalisation and to report any suspicious behaviour and activities.

RSIS' 116-page report noted that ISD had assessed that the threat from "Islamist extremism and terrorism" - both from organised groups based overseas and self-radicalised lone actors based in Singapore - remained high in 2022.

In a section focused on Singapore, RSIS analysts Kalicharan Veera Singam and Abigail Leong described the Internet as continuing to play a "pivotal" role in sustaining the momentum of the global jihadist movement.

"This ‘cyber jihad’, waged on a borderless virtual battlefield, is a potential security minefield in a highly digitally connected society like Singapore," they wrote.

Developments in the region and further abroad may also reverberate closer to home, they said, citing how the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan has stirred lingering concerns of a resurgence in jihadist activity in Southeast Asia.

"This is especially given the historical nexus between the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and regional networks like JI (Jemaah Islamiyah)," they said.

"More than a year on, however, there is limited evidence of collaboration between the abovementioned terrorist groups, or of Southeast Asian jihadists performing (migration) to the Afghan theatre."

While the RSIS report said there were no specific or credible terrorist threats to Singapore currently, it warned that the country continues to feature in the propaganda of terror groups like Islamic State, and remains a high-value target for both terrorist organisations and self-radicalised lone actors.

The report's authors added that issues around race and religion remain potential fault lines in Singapore, which could be manipulated by radicals. 

They pointed to the case of Australian national Andrew Gosling, who was sentenced to jail in April last year for throwing a wine bottle from his condominium toward a group of Malay Muslims gathered on the ground floor, and killing an elderly man in the process. His actions were described by prosecutors as demonstrating religious hostility. 

Last month, a former polytechnic lecturer was also sentenced to jail for racist remarks against an interracial couple.

"While these are isolated and one-off incidents that are not part of a wider domestic trend, they highlight the importance of maintaining tolerance and harmony in Singapore’s society, given a global climate currently challenged by religious extremism and violence," said the RSIS analysts.

Source: CNA/vl(jo)


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