SINGAPORE - The month of December in 2001 is etched in the mind of Muslim cleric Mohamed Ali.
Filled with shock, dismay and pain, it was a period when Singapore learnt that Al-Qaeda's terror tentacles had gripped Singapore.
He had just started work as the manager of the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang Road after returning with an arts degree in Islamic jurisprudence from Egypt's Al-Azhar University.
One day in late December that year, his father, Ustaz Ali Mohamed, stumbled into the mosque, looking visibly distraught.
Ustaz Ali, a respected Muslim leader and chairman of the Khadijah Mosque, told his son what he had just learnt from the Internal Security Department (ISD): Between Dec 9 and 24, it had arrested 15 people under the Internal Security Act for their involvement in terrorism-related activities. They belonged to a militant group, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), linked to Al-Qaeda.
The JI planned to bomb several targets in Singapore. Some among its members had trained in Al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
"My father kept repeating: 'This has happened to our country. We must do something."
"It was a challenging time for us. We knew we had to be at the forefront. But we did not know what or how we were going to do the job," recalls the soft-spoken Dr Mohamed, 40.
What the father and son, and another Muslim cleric, Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan, knew then was not known to the public. It was much later on Jan 5, 2002, that the Government released details of the arrests to the public.
The ISD had consulted the two Muslim clerics first because Singapore leaders realised early the need for a different approach in tackling the terrorism problem.