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3 Singaporeans, including former NSF, arrested for militancy: MHA

SINGAPORE — Three radicalised Singaporeans have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) between September and this month for engaging in terrorism-related activities, including a soldier who was serving full-time national service at the time of arrest, announced the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday (Nov 9).

SINGAPORE — Three radicalised Singaporeans have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) between September and this month for engaging in terrorism-related activities, including a soldier who was serving full-time national service at the time of arrest, announced the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday (Nov 9). 

In its statement, MHA said that none of the three individuals were reported by relatives or friends. “Investigations have not established them to have any plans to carry out attacks in Singapore,” it added.

Authorities received intelligence on 19-year-old Adzrul Azizi Bajuri, who served as a logistics assistant in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), in August, said MHA. He was issued with a Restriction Order (RO) in September and will be required to undergo counselling, including religious counselling.

Investigation by authorities showed that there are no indications that Adzrul radicalised any of his fellow national servicemen, said MHA.

Adzrul is the second radicalised full-time national serviceman (NSF) to be arrested under the ISA, after Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid, 20, was arrested in 2010.  

MHA said that Adzrul was exposed to online materials on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) when he was in secondary school. “In 2014, while watching online videos related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he came across ISIS-related videos,” said the ministry. “Through continued exposure to these pro-ISIS materials, he became radicalised by ISIS’s propaganda.”

In the middle of last year, Adzrul, who was described by MHA as an ISIS supporter, considered fighting for the terrorist group in Syria, “as he saw the armed conflict there as a sectarian struggle between Sunnis and Shias”, MHA noted.  From August this year, he started “having some doubts about the legitimacy of ISIS’ ideology and its violent tactics”, the ministry added.

Although some of his relatives and associates had seen indications of his radicalism, they did not inform the authorities, said MHA. It noted that Adzrul had talked about his pro-ISIS inclinations to an unnamed individual, who tried in vain to counsel him against having such beliefs.

“Adzrul’s radicalisation was left unchecked because no one came forward to report him. Fortunately, he was detected before he could engage in armed violence overseas,” said MHA.

In response to media queries, a Ministry of Defence (Mindef) spokesperson noted that as full-time NSFs “are drawn from the entire male population at large, the risk of enlisting a radicalised serviceman exists”.

“MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have drawn valuable lessons from these cases and will continue to maintain a high degree of vigilance against signs of radicalism and extremism among our servicemen,” said the spokesperson, referring to Adzrul and Muhammad Fadil.

The spokesperson added: “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.”

In another case, 25-year-old Abu Thalha Samad - who is a member of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) - has been placed under a two-year detention order since September.

The ministry noted that from a young age, Abu Thalha had been studying in JI-linked schools in the region, where he was indoctrinated with the group’s teachings. He had undergone paramilitary training in some of these schools.

In 2014, he took the “pledge of allegiance” to become a JI member. “He understood it to mean that he was duty-bound to carry out whatever instructions the JI leaders had for him, including performing armed jihad and sacrificing his life for the JI’s violent cause,” said MHA.

Since last year, Abu Thalha had been teaching in a JI-affiliated school in the region and served on a JI committee that seeks to recruit students. The Singapore authorities had worked together with a regional government to deport Abu Thalha earlier this year.

Apart from the two men, a woman was also arrested, and placed under a two-year detention order starting this month. Munavar Baig Amina Begam, a 38-year-old housewife who was born India and later became a Singapore citizen, was the third radicalised woman arrested in Singapore under the ISA.

Amina had intended to travel to Syria to join ISIS and undergo military training, as well as take up arms. Her path towards radicalisation started after a foreign online contact shared with her ISIS propaganda, and convinced her that the terrorist group was engaged in a conflict to defend Sunni Muslims, said MHA.

TODAY understands that she is a mother of two - a teenager and a toddler - and her husband was not aware of her radicalism. Amina shared materials promoting terrorism on social media in a bid to garner support for ISIS, encouraging others to fight and die as martyrs.

Meanwhile, MHA said that the RO issued against 62-year-old Mustafa Kamal Mohammad in 2013 was allowed to lapse in September this year. Mustafa, who was a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, had cooperated with the authorities and was responsive to rehabilitation efforts, said the ministry.

The latest arrests are "a stark reminder that the threat of terror is alive and very active in the region,” the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a statement on Thursday.

In a Facebook post, Minister in charge of Muslim Affairs Dr Yaacob Ibrahim added: “The three new cases of self-radicalisation are another reminder that our community requires support and guidance from sound and credible religious sources. We cannot underestimate the influence exerted by online sources.”

In October this year, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said seven times more Singaporeans were radicalised in the past year than the period before that.

Calling for unity among Singaporeans, Dr Yaacob wrote: “We must never let the actions of the misguided few define an entire community. Let us continue to work as one people in protecting the peace and harmony we cherish in Singapore.”

 

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of the story, we said that Adzrul Azizi Bajuri was the first full-time national serviceman (NSF) to be arrested under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities. This is incorrect. He is the second NSF to be detained. We are sorry for the error.

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