A SINGAPOREAN post-secondary student who made plans to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last month.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday that M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention of carrying out violent attacks in Singapore.
His detention comes amid growing concern globally that young people are being radicalised by ISIS - increasingly via the Internet - to take up arms in Syria.
Over 20,000 foreign fighters have already joined the ongoing battle in Iraq and Syria, including more than 600 from South-east Asia, and the group has been gaining ground in its recruitment as it makes gains on the battlefield.
The MHA said Arifil revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks here. "He gave considerable thought to how he would attack key facilities and assassinate government leaders.
"If he was unable to carry out these plans, he planned instead to carry out attacks in public places in order to strike fear within our society, using easily available weapons such as knives."
Meanwhile, another Singaporean youth, aged 17, was arrested this month for further investigation into the extent of his radicalisation. He was not named. The MHA said his family will be kept informed of the investigation.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said terrorism remains a serious global threat and the arrests showed that young people in Singapore are also vulnerable to being radicalised.
"It is not just a problem that is 'over there' in some other countries. It is also a problem that is 'over here', in our region, and in Singapore as well," he added.
The MHA said Arifil was radicalised around 2013 after he started viewing terrorist propaganda online and soon began to support ISIS' radical ideology and violent tactics.
He also befriended individuals online who he thought could help him join the group.
He actively looked up travel routes to Syria online and researched ways of making improvised explosive devices.
The MHA said Arifil's plans for attacks here were corroborated by several people whom he tried to recruit to help with the plans. While they were not swayed, they also did not alert the authorities.
"Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him and brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate... and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore," said the MHA.
Community leaders said they were shocked and dismayed at news of the plans and that more had to be done to ensure young people were not swayed by radical ideology.
Ustaz Ali Mohamed, co-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which counsels terror detainees, said: "We need to post online moderate, correct messages... Some may believe what they view online because they themselves feel isolated or disaffected, so it's important that we try to engage and reintegrate them."
DPM Teo urged all communities in Singapore to continue to work together to counter radical ideology and preserve harmony.
"All of us must play our part. If you know or suspect anyone who is becoming radicalised, please notify the authorities early," he said.
"We must strengthen our community resilience, so that if an incident were to occur here, we can recover and emerge even stronger and more united."
This article was first published on May 28, 2015.
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