2 Singaporeans detained for planning to join ISIS

PHOTO: The New Paper, Shutterstock

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporeans were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month, after investigations showed that they had intentions to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that Muhammad Shamin bin Mohamed Sidek and Muhammed Harith Jailani were detained in two separate cases.

Muhammad Shamin, 29, is a self-radicalised individual who had been convicted and sentenced to three months' jail in May 2015 for inciting religious violence through pro-ISIS postings on social media.

"As he continued to express unstinting support for ISIS throughout his three-month imprisonment, he was arrested under the ISA in Jul 2015 for investigations to assess if he posed a threat to Singapore's security," MHA said in a statement.

Further investigations by the Internal Security Department (ISD) also showed that he planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS once he had raised enough funds, and that he would consider fighting alongside a regional militant group that he considered to be aligned with the organisation.

"Shamin said he was prepared to die in the course of defending the 'caliphate' that was declared by ISIS," the ministry added.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Harith, 18, was also radicalised by ISIS' online propaganda, and harboured the intention to carry out armed jihad for the Islamist organisation.

According to MHA, he had collected information on how he could travel to Syria and also tried to radicalise those around him to support ISIS' cause.

"The detentions of Shamin and Harith underline the persistent ISIS threat and the threat posed by self-radicalised Singaporeans. A few of the Singaporeans who have been detained had even been prepared to carry out terrorist attacks in Singapore," MHA said in their statement.

The ministry stressed that the Government takes a very serious view of any form of support for terrorism, and will take firm action against any person who engages in such activities.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, terrorism expert Professor Rohan Gunaratna called for an ASEAN-wide response to the increasing terrorist threats faced by the region.

Prof Gunaratna, who is the Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said that the number of ISIS supporters in the region had risen, and warned that the frequency and gravity of attacks like the recent Bangkok attacks will increase if regional leaders do not act together.

According to Prof Gunaratna, there are now 30 terrorist groups pledged to ISIS, including 22 in Indonesia and five in Malaysia. More than 600 people from Southeast Asia have also left to fight with ISIS militants, including over 500 Indonesians and nearly 100 known recruits from Malaysia.

"While Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore face the most direct terrorism threat, the problem requires an ASEAN-level response to ensure the future socio-economic security and stability of the region," he said at a roundtable ahead of the inaugural Asia Pacific Homeland Security conference later this month.

He also added that governments in the region could do more to support local religious leaders and educate followers against recruitment to ISIS.

seanyap@sph.com.sg

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