SINGAPORE — A 26-year-old Bangladeshi was arrested in Singapore under the Internal Security Act (ISA) earlier this month for terrorism-related activities.
In a media release on Tuesday (24 November), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that Ahmed Faysal was among 37 individuals being investigated by the Internal Security Department (ISD) since early September for being suspected radicalised individuals or persons whose conduct could threaten Singapore’s communal harmony.
This comes after MHA stepped up its counter-terrorism security activities after a spate of terrorist attacks in France, including the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb, following the re-publication of caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo on 1 September.
“There have also been attacks against French/Western interests elsewhere, such as in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Vienna, Austria. In addition, a palpable anti-France climate has developed in several countries, as seen in large protests and calls for boycotts, as well as an uptick in terrorist rhetoric online,” MHA said in the media release.
“In view of the deteriorating security situation, the Home Team has been on heightened alert since early September, and had also stepped up its security activities to pre-empt copycat attacks in Singapore.”
Shared propaganda promoting armed violence on social media
Faysal was arrested on 2 November. While he is not linked to the incidents in France, ISD’s preliminary investigations showed that he was radicalised and harboured the intention to undertake armed violence in support of his religion.
Faysal had been working as a construction worker in Singapore since early 2017, and became radicalised in 2018 after imbibing online propaganda on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.
“He was attracted to ISIS’ goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and wanted to travel there to fight alongside ISIS against the Syrian government. He believed that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so,” MHA said.
In mid-2019, Faysal shifted his allegiance to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria. He donated funds to a Syria-based organisation on the understanding that his donations would benefit the HTS’ cause in Syria.
Faysal also actively shared propaganda promoting armed violence on social media using accounts created under fictitious names. Apart from ISIS and HTS, he had also expressed support for other terrorist groups including the Al-Qaeda and Somalia-based AlShabaab.
“Faysal believed that Muslims are duty-bound to engage in armed jihad to help fellow Muslims who are oppressed. Apart from Syria, he was also willing to travel to Kashmir to fight against the perceived enemies of Islam,” MHA said.
“To prepare himself for armed jihad, Faysal watched firearms-related videos online. He even bought foldable knives in Singapore, which he claimed he would use for attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh.”
Investigations thus far have not surfaced any indication that Faysal intended to carry out any acts of violence in Singapore.
37 probed for suspected radical inclinations, incendiary comments
The 37 individuals being investigated had attracted security attention for suspected radical inclinations, or for making comments which incite violence, or stoke communal unrest.
MHA said that the majority of them had supported the beheading of Paty and the subsequent attacks in France and elsewhere, or incited violence against France or French President Emmanuel Macron for his defence of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
On the other hand, a few of them had made derogatory remarks against Muslims.
“While a handful had commented on the same discussion threads on social media, the majority of the cases are not connected to each other,” MHA added. “To date, there is no indication that any of these individuals had been planning any attacks or protests in Singapore.”
Of the 37 individuals, 14 are Singaporeans and 23 are foreigners. The 14 Singaporeans comprise 10 males and four females, and are aged between 19 and 62 years old.
Most of them had, in response to the recent terror attacks in France, made social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest. Investigations into these 14 Singaporeans are ongoing.
For foreigners, 16 of them have been repatriated following the completion of ISD’s investigations into them. They comprise a Malaysian, who was found to be radicalised and harboured the intention to travel to Syria or Palestine to partake in armed violence, and 15 Bangladeshis, most of whom were working in the construction industry who had made social media postings which incited violence or stoked communal unrest.
Investigations into the remaining seven foreigners are still ongoing, with Faysal among these seven individuals.
Advisories among foreign-worker community
MHA said in its media release that, in light of the recent terrorism-related developments in Europe and Singapore, the Singapore Police Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority have stepped up their security measures and patrols.
The ministry has also distributed advisories among the foreign-worker community in five different languages, advising them to stay away from extremist activities in or outside of their dormitories.
The workers are also advised not to import foreign politics into Singapore, such as organising protest, rally or openly displaying support without approval from Singapore authorities. They are also encouraged to reported suspicious activities or individuals to the police.
Similarly, members of the Singapore public who suspect that a person has been radicalised, or is engaging in terrorism-related activities, should call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626473.
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