Two self-radicalised Singaporeans, aged 15 and 16, were issued with an Order of Detention (OD) and Restriction Order (RO) under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in Dec., 2022 and Jan., 2023, the Internal Security Department announced on Feb. 21.
The 15-year-old is the youngest individual to be detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities thus far.
15-year-old youngest to be detained; willing to conduct suicide operations to kill “disbelievers”
The 15-year-old boy was arrested under the ISA in Nov., 2022.
He was self-radicalised by online terrorist propaganda and was supportive of Al Qaeda (AQ) and ISIS.
According to ISD, he had considered conducting attacks in Singapore, and harboured the desire to establish an Islamic caliphate through violent means.
The 15-year-old came across podcasts by foreign segregationist preacher, Ismail Menk, in early 2022 while searching for religious content online.
Menk has been banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015 as his segregationist teachings promote religious disharmony, ISD said.
The 15-year-old “avidly consumed” these materials and went on to search for more religious knowledge when he was exposed to violent militant content including ISIS propaganda.
He then got in touch with foreign personas who influenced him further with their extremist beliefs.
“Deeply radicalised” within months
By mid-2022, the boy was “deeply radicalised”, ISD said.
He shared pro-ISIS material on his social media accounts, and even tried to buy an ISIS flag on e-commerce platforms in the latter half of 2022 even though the attempt was unsuccessful.
He also idolised AQ’s deceased founder Osama bin Laden and regarded the 9/11 attacks as a justified act of retaliation against Americans who had killed “innocent Muslims”, ISD revealed.
The 15-year-old shared violent AQ and ISIS videos, including beheading videos, with his classmates in an attempt to radicalise them. However, none of his classmates took interest.
He was convinced that armed violence was permissible against “disbelievers”, which include Shia and Sufi Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
He also perceived those who “oppressed” Muslims, enforced secular laws or obstructed the establishment of an Islamic caliphate as “disbelievers” who should be killed.
He also tried to convince two foreign online contacts to join him in undertaking armed violence, but failed.
The boy even wanted to travel to Afghanistan to live in an Islamic caliphate that is governed by sharia (Islamic law).
Considered killing “disbelievers” in Singapore
The 15-year-old was also willing to support any group that was seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore or abroad, including conducting suicide operations to kill “disbelievers”.
In late 2022, the boy had considered conducting knife attacks to behead non-Muslims in popular tourist areas in Singapore.
He also fantasised about exploding himself as a suicide bomber after being “inspired” by ISIS’s beheading and suicide bombing videos, which he frequently viewed online.
While he was deeply entrenched in his radical views, the teen had yet taken any preparation towards actualising these ideas at the point of his arrest, ISD said.
16-year-old self-radicalised individual joined ISIS-themed servers on an online gaming platform
Another 16-year-old was also found to have been self-radicalised after consuming online ISIS propaganda through YouTube and online music streaming platforms.
ISD found that he had an interest in far-right extremist content when he was 14, including those which were anti-Semitic and supportive of neo-Nazi groups whose ideologies promoted a “race war”.
After being assessed to be vulnerable to radicalisation, the boy was cautioned by ISD back in 2020.
Despite the warning, the boy continued to imbibe ISIS propaganda and engaged in ISIS-related discussions online.
Over time, he became supportive of ISIS’s goal of creating an Islamic caliphate through violence such as the use of beheading, shootings and suicide bombings.
He joined multiple ISIS-themed servers on online gaming platform Roblox, where the virtual game settings replicated physical ISIS conflict zones, such as those in Syria and Marawi city in southern Philippines.
He regarded himself as an ISIS member in these games and was proud of his roles as the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his in-game ISIS faction.
The boy also shared his support for ISIS onto social media between late 2021 and early 2022.
ISD revealed in the press release that these two youths were online contacts of the 18-year-old Singaporean Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohamad Nor who was recently detailed under the ISA in December last year.
The three of them were self-radicalised separately but became acquainted through the same extreme social media channel. They had not met in-person or discussed plans to travel together, ISD added.
The youths concealed their radical activities with measures such as using private web browsers and the 16-year-old even used code words while communicating with Irfan and other extremist personas online.
As such, their family members were not aware of their radical views or support for armed violence.
‘Comprehensive and holistic’ approach to youth rehabilitation
ISD said that they are partnering the Religious Rehabilitation Group and the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group to create a comprehensive and holistic rehabilitation programme for detainees and RO supervisees.
For example, all detainees attend religious counselling sessions at least once a month by a religious counsellor from the RRG and a psychologist will also engage these radicalised individuals to address non-ideological factors such as their propensity for hatred and violence.
Each detainee and supervisee will be supported in this rehabilitation process and when they ready to be reintegrated into the society. For example, they will be granted weekly family visits and assigned an aftercare officer who will provide additional social support.
For self-radicalised youths, ISD also works with their schools to minimise any disruption to the youths’ education. The 15-year-old has been provided with his school curriculum and study materials so that he can continue with his studies while in detention. Tutors were also assigned to help him prepare for his national examinations.
The 16-year-old RO supervisee will also be supported by his school principal, school counsellor and form teacher who will monitor his behaviour and progress while he’s in school.
11 self-radicalised youths aged 20 or below handled by ISD since 2015
Since 2015, ISD has dealt with 11 self-radicalised Singaporean youths aged 20 or below under the ISA.
All were radicalised online, ISD added.
ISD cautioned that the extremist and terrorist groups have been misusing online gaming platforms to disseminate their ideological beliefs through video games and to recruit young members through this medium.
The department urged family members and friends to take notice of changes in behaviour among those around them and look out for possible signs of radicalisation so that the authorities can intervene early to avert a tragedy, ISD said.
Some possible signs, but are not limited to, are:
- Frequently surfing radical websites;
- Posting/sharing extremist views on social media platforms, such as expressing support/admiration for terrorists/terrorist groups as well as the use of violence;
- Sharing their extremist views with friends and relatives;
- Making remarks that promote ill-will or hatred towards people of other races or religions;
- Expressing intent to participate in acts of violence overseas or in Singapore; and/or
- Inciting others to participate in acts of violence.
If you suspect anyone has been radicalised, you can call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline at 1800 2626 473.
Top image via Canva and provided by ISD.