A recent Order of Detention and Restriction Order under the Internal Security Act was issued to two radicalised youths, aged 15 and 16, in Singapore.
The 15-year-old is the youngest person to have been issued this order.
Here’s what you need to know.
Secondary School Students Self-Radicalised
The 15 year-old, who was a secondary school student in secondary three, was arrested under the ISA in November 2022.
After rounds of investigations, it was found that he was self-radicalised by online terrorist propaganda spewed by Al Qaeda and ISIS.
He even admitted to considering attacks in Singapore and had a desire to establish an Islamic caliphate through violent means. He is the youngest individual to date that has been apprehended under the ISA for terrorism-related activities.
The 16-year-old, who was a secondary four student at the point of his arrest, was issued with a RO under the ISA in January 2023. Investigations found that the youth has been self-radicalised by online ISIS propaganda and believed in the use of armed violence to establish an Islamic caliphate.
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How They Were Radicalised
In early 2022, the 15-year-old was searching online for religious content when he stumbled onto the podcasts of foreign segregationist preacher, Ismail Menk, who was banned from preaching in Singapore as his teachings promote racial disharmony.
He thoroughly enjoyed the content and consumed them avidly. He then went onto other social media platforms in search of more religious knowledge. This was when he was exposed to violent militant content including ISIS propaganda. He took part in discussions with foreign persons who influenced him with their extremist beliefs.
Unfortunately, by mid-2022, he was deeply radicalised, having come to the conclusion that violence against non-believers was permissible.
The 16-year-old first attracted attention by the authorities in November 2020 when he was only 14. Investigations by ISD found out that he had a disturbing interest in far-right extremist content, including those which are anti-semitic and supportive of Neo-Nazi groups whose ideologies promoted a “race war”.
He was also attracted to Islamic eschatological prophecies of the End-of-Times after watching several YouTube videos about it. He also stumbled upon ISIS jihadi nasheeds (songs) from online streaming platforms.
The youth was then assessed to be vulnerable to radicalisation and was cautioned by ISD to steer clear of extremist content online.
In the 15-year-old’s view, “disbelievers” included Shia and Sufi Muslims, as well as non-Muslims.
Those that “oppressed” Muslims, such as enforcing secular laws or obstructed the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, are also “disbelievers” and should be killed as well.
Due to this, he had a strong desire to live under an Islamic caliphate governed by Sharia (Islamic law).
He has considered travelling to Afghanistan but did not take any preparations at the time of his arrest. He was willing to give his support to any group that wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore or overseas, including taking the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to the group, participating in armed jihad and undertaking any tasks assigned to him, including killing “disbelievers” and conducting suicide operations.
He viewed dying as a martyr to be the responsibility of all Muslims.
He was also highly supportive of ISIS’ actions, especially in 2014, when it was fighting to establish a Islamic caliphate. He regarded the killings of Shias and Yazidis as being “justified”.
Back in 2014, there was a genocide and enslavement of roughly 10,000 Yazidis when ISIS invaded their homeland. Today, over 200,000 Yazidis are still internally displaced across Iraq and more than 2,700 women and children remain in ISIS captivity.
He shared pro-ISIS materials on his social media accounts and tried unsuccessfully to buy an ISIS flag on e-commerce platforms in the late half of 2022.
The youth’s support for AQ stemmed from his idolisation and admiration of its late leader, Osama Bin Laden, whom he heralded as a defender of Islam. He believed AQ had defended Muslims from oppression and regarded the 9/11 attacks as a justified act of retaliation against Americans who had killed “innocent Muslims”.
He made online postings expressing his support for AQ by justifying the atrocious acts the group did.
He also shared violent AQ and ISIS videos, including beheading videos, with his classmates to try and radicalise them as well. However, none of his classmates took an interest in these extremist materials. He also tried unsuccessfully to convince two foreign contacts to join him in undertaking armed violence on online platforms.
For the 16-year-old, despite warnings from ISD, he still continued to imbibe ISIS propaganda and engaged in ISIS-related discussions with other users on social media platforms
Over time, he was convinced of ISIS’s goal of creating an Islamic caliphate through violence, including the ones mentioned like beheadings, suicide bombings and shootings.
The youth then joined several ISIS-themed servers on gaming platform Roblox, where the game settings replicated the physical ISIS conflict zones, such as those in Syria and Marawi city, Southern Philippines
The youth regarded himself as an ISIS member in these games and has taken a bai’ah to an in-game “ISIS leader”. The youth expressed pride in being the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his in-game ISIS faction.
He said his actions in support of ISIS in Roblox, such as shooting and killing ISIS’s enemies, were intended to mimic his desire to be an ISIS member in real life.
He showed his support of ISIS through creating and uploading three ISIS propaganda videos onto social media between late 2021 and early 2022. Using his Roblox game footage which showed the virtual ISIS factions conducting attacks, the youth added ISIS’s nasheeds and superimposed images of an ISIS flag to create propaganda video.
Desire to Conduct Attacks in Singapore
As the 15-year-old believed strongly that “disbelievers” should be killed, in late 2022, the youth considered knife attacks to behead non-Muslims in popular tourist areas in Singapore.
Apart from knife attacks, he also thought of being a suicide bomber and fantasised about exploding himself.
He said that such thoughts were inspired by ISIS’ beheading and suicide bombing videos, which he frequently viewed online.
At the point of arrest, the youth was deeply entrenched in his radical views, but had yet to take any steps towards the actualisation of his attack ideations.
Connections to Other Radicals
The two youths were online contacts of 18 year-old Singaporean Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohammed Nor ,who was detained under the ISA in December 2022 as he made plans to carry out attacks in Singapore and to declare Coney Island as an ISIS wilayat (province).
Though the three of them self-radicalised separately, Irfan and the boys subsequently became acquainted through the same extremist social media channel. Fortunately, they did not meet physically or discuss any plans to travel together.
In their private conversations online, they shared their support of terrorist groups as well as their radical beliefs such as their support for ISIS, desire to travel overseas to take part in armed violence, measures to take to conceal radical activities such as to maintain online operational security.
They used code words and private web browsers to communicate with other radical personas online. Unfortunately, their close family and friends had no idea about their radical views or support for armed violence.
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