Friday, 2 October 2015

Two Singaporeans detained under ISA for planning to join ISIS

By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 1 Oct 2015

Two Singaporeans were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in August for planning to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group and engage in violence, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

They are Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, 29, who was previously convicted in May of inciting violence on social media, and Muhammad Harith Jailani, 18.

Shamin, then a security guard, was sentenced by the State Courts to three months' jail for inciting religious violence through his pro-ISIS postings. The ministry said he was arrested under the ISA in July "as he continued to express unstinting support for ISIS throughout his three-month imprisonment".

The Internal Security Department found that Shamin planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS once he had raised enough money to fund the trip. He also decided that if he was unable to join ISIS, he would consider fighting alongside a regional militant group aligned with ISIS.

As for Harith, the ministry said he was radicalised by ISIS' online propaganda: "He was prepared to be trained by ISIS to fight and kill the group's enemies, and to die in the process so that he would receive divine rewards for dying as a martyr."

He collected information on how he could travel to Syria and tried to recruit others.

The latest arrests bring to four the number of Singaporeans detained for planning to join ISIS. A youth was also put under a Restriction Order for two years in June.

The ministry said the latest cases "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," it added.

Two Singaporeans were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in August for planning to join militant group...
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two detained here tried to influence others
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 1 Oct 2015

The two Singaporeans detained in August for harbouring plans to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group were not just deeply radicalised by the terror group's online propaganda, but sought to influence others as well.

Announcing the detention of Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, 29, and Muhammad Harith Jailani, 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday that Shamin was undeterred by his arrest under the Internal Security Act.

He "said he would pursue his plans to join ISIS after his release from detention", the ministry said. He "also said he was prepared to die in the course of defending the 'caliphate' declared by ISIS".

Meanwhile, Harith tried to radicalise those around him to support ISIS' cause and join the group with him.

Community leaders and observers told The Straits Times yesterday that the latest arrests reflect how the threat from ISIS is enduring, and underlined the need for Muslim leaders to do more to counter ISIS.

Said Dr Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group that counsels terror detainees: "If you look at our community, we know about ISIS, we are aware of the threat of ISIS, but one thing we don't fully understand is the seriousness of the threat," he said.

The arrests of Shamin and Harith bring to seven the number of Singaporeans known to have planned to join ISIS or who have joined them.

Two others have been detained.

Mustafa Sultan Ali, 51, was arrested by the Turkish authorities and deported while trying to cross into Syria, and detained here in July.

M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, had made plans to kill the Prime Minister and President if he could not travel. He was detained in April.

An unnamed 17-year-old radicalised youth who made plans to join ISIS was put under a Restriction Order in June to limit his activities.

Two others, Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali and an unnamed woman, are in Syria with some 30,000 foreign fighters, who security agencies fear will pose a threat when they return to their societies.

ISIS, said Dr Mohamed, has used technology to woo men and women across different socio-economic backgrounds and age groups: "Whatever materials you seek, they put at your fingertips."

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Jasminder Singh agreed, noting that many fighters who crossed into Syria share their stories and tips with others online. There are even easily available files online detailing the different routes that can best avoid the scrutiny of security agencies, he said.

But even as the battle to counter ISIS ideas goes online, Mr Singh noted that many who seek out such information are isolated individuals who can become "hardcore". He said: "Our community is moderate - you will not find radical individuals in our madrasahs or mosques. It is an isolated group that is not mixing well with the rest of society."

Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Azmoon Ahmad, who heads the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group that looks after detainees' families, said some groups are looking at better tackling the root causes of such disaffection. Some might find ISIS attractive because of family problems, or see in its ideology a purpose in life previously missing, and groups are finding ways to better engage and empower them to make the right choices, he added.

"ISIS is becoming more bold in the way it reaches out to our youth, so it's important we identify youth with difficult families and give them more attention," he said.

Malaysian police say ISIS flags seen in several states no cause for concern.
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, October 1, 2015

'ISIS using Malaysian recruits as snipers, suicide bombers'
The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2015

KUALA LUMPUR • Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is moving Malaysian recruits from jobs as cleaners and guards in Syria to deadlier tasks - turning them into snipers and suicide bombers in Iraq, counter-terrorism officials here say.

At least three Malaysians have died so far as a result of the move, officials say.

Malaysians lured by the promise of ISIS ideals are being trained for such missions, as the terror group tries to regain its grip on Iraq, according to Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Senior Assistant Commissioner Ayub Khan.

"The presence of the IS (ISIS) in Syria is quite solid but the group is losing control over Iraq as many territories have fallen back to Iraqi government forces," he said.

"Our intelligence shows that they are relying more on Malaysians now to carry out strike missions against several key structures in Iraq," he told The Star newspaper on Wednesday.

Datuk Ayub said that the Malaysian militants were plucked from the Khatibah Nusantara cell in Syria to join special ops squads.

"The Khatibah Nusantara consists of Malaysian and Indonesian IS fighters," he said. "They band together as their languages and interests are similar."

This new development came to light following the deaths of three Malaysians in Iraq, believed to be on special ops missions.

One of them was Zid Saharani Mohamed Esa, 43, who died in a clash with Iraqi forces in Bayji, Iraq, on Aug 29. "We believe he was one of the snipers assigned to take out targets at an Iraqi government structure in Bayji," said Mr Ayub.

Zid, also known as Abu Hoor, had been detained under the Internal Security Act in 2002. He went to Bangkok last year to catch a flight to Turkey where he secured safe passage to Syria by land.

The two others killed were Muhamad Syazani Mohd Salim, 28, and Fadzly Ariff Zainal Ariff, 31.

Muhamad Syazani, known as Abu Aydan, was also killed in Bayji, during an attack on Sept 18.

Fadzly Ariff Zainal Ariff, who sold burgers in Malaysia, died on Sept 26 when he drove a truck filled with seven tonnes of explosives to a bridge in Buhayrat in Fallujah, killing a group of Iraqi soldiers.

"Our intelligence indicates that Fadzly Ariff, known as Abu Ubaidah, had attempted suicide bombings twice but failed as his explosives malfunctioned the previous times," said Mr Ayub, adding that the former burger seller went to Syria on Oct 11, 2013.

The latest deaths bring the number of Malaysians known to have been killed in Syria and Iraq to 14. So far, the police have identified 69 Malaysians who have joined ISIS in Syria, but the actual figure could be about 100, including children.


ASEAN 'needs to close ranks against ISIS'
Experts say latest detentions highlight the continuing threat the terror group poses
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2015

The latest detentions of two Singaporeans planning to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underline the severity of the threat the terror group continues to pose.

But observers say it also reflects how Singapore has managed the threat: A coordinated, multi-agency approach to national security matters in place over the past decade to deal with the Jemaah Islamiah threat has helped tackle the challenge posed by ISIS.

However, greater cooperation among countries in the region is vital to decisively counter ISIS' growing influence in the region.

Some 30 extremist groups from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have taken oaths of allegiance to ISIS over the past year, said Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

He notes that while these groups are not directly funded by ISIS, they localise and disseminate its propaganda, augmenting its ability to recruit foreign fighters and carry out attacks in areas far away from its self-declared caliphate.

"ISIS is 80 to 90 per cent financially independent as (it raises) money through oil, taxation, cross-border trade and kidnapping for ransom," he said. "The biggest resource it needs is manpower, which it is receiving from this region."

There are now some 100 fighters from Malaysia and 500 from Indonesia with ISIS, many of them part of its Malay Archipelago Unit. ISIS has about 30,000 foreign fighters. And even as the authorities in both countries clamp down on militants, ISIS' online propaganda goes on.

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, says: "The messages are not just targeted at fighters and fanatics, but also at professionals and administrators."

ISIS' counter-culture narrative of building a new, utopian society has proven to be difficult to counter as it appeals to both the young and idealistic and those looking for a deeper meaning to life, he added.

Singapore has not been spared. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that two citizens had been detained for planning to join ISIS and take up arms.

The two, Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, 29, and Muhammad Harith Jailani, 18, bring to seven the number of Singaporeans known to have planned to join ISIS or who have joined them.

Dr Kumar said public education efforts to sensitise the community to signs of radicalisation appear to have borne fruit, citing anecdotal evidence that some recent arrests were the result of tip-offs from concerned friends and family members.

Dr Gunaratna said Singapore's approach to fighting terrorism, which sees agencies working together and sharing information, has proven effective at highlighting and identifying cases of radicalised individuals.

And as the ISIS threat shows little sign of abating in spite of efforts by an international coalition of more than 60 countries, both analysts called for greater regional cooperation between Singapore and its neighbours.

Dr Gunaratna said the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the United States can serve as a model for ASEAN members threatened by ISIS like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. He hopes to discuss this at the inaugural Asia Pacific Homeland Security conference later this month.

More can also be done to build professional ties between the various national intelligence agencies.

"In South-east Asia, we have the famous ASEAN way, where there is a subculture of cooperation, but a lot also depends on the working relations between the the heads of security agencies," said Dr Kumar.

"You need regular interactions at a working level between not just intelligence chiefs, but also staff to build that rapport and trust."

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