Thursday 20 November 2014

No society is immune to radicalisation: Wong Kan Seng

By Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia, 18 Nov 2014

Former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said there is no immunity to the threat of radicalisation for any society, including Singapore.

Speaking at a seminar by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on Tuesday (Nov 18), Mr Wong said that the "vigilance of the security services must ultimately be augmented by the vigilance of the society itself."

He said groups like Islamic State (IS) are savvy in their use of social media to propagate radical rhetoric and recruit fighters to their cause. He also urged governments in the region to step up efforts in the sharing of information and intelligence.

Mr Wong said: "13 years on from 9/11 and Singapore's discovery of the regional JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) network, we are none the safer from the terrorism threat. The terrorism threat has not diminished, but has evolved and adapted to a more hostile security environment. It has also become more diffused with the rise of the phenomenon of self-radicalised or 'lone wolf' terrorists."

He felt that the conflict in Syria and and the IS have given new impetus to existing regional jihadist groups like JI and the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), which have sent their members to Syria to fight.

Mr Wong said the manner in which foreign fighters flock to Syria reminds him of how Muslims around the world had similarly been drawn to fight in the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.

He added: "The Soviet-Afghan war not only led to the creation of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, but also a global fraternity of terrorist brotherhood. Many governments anticipate that the Syrian conflict will likewise lead to the emergence of a new generation of mujahidin and the perpetuation of the terrorism menace for many years to come."

Mr Wong, who was also Minister for Home Affairs, recounted how Singapore had taken a multi-pronged approach to counter the threat of jihadist terrorism.

"Apart from investigations and exchange of intelligence with foreign security services, the Government held closed-door national dialogues with religious and community leaders to share our concerns on the terrorism threat and how we must not let it destroy our Singapore's social cohesion," he stated.

Mr Wong said there was also the awareness to go beyond the detention of JI members to counter the deviant religious teachings. A core group of religious teachers formed the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) to provide religious counselling for the JI detainees and their families.

To this end, Mr Wong said that for some "hardcore" detainees, results so far have not been positive, and that they will only be released once they are rehabilitated.

Overall, he said that while Singapore has been successful in keeping the terrorism threat at bay, the general public must continue to remain vigilant and stay united in the event of an incident.

"The irony is, the more successful we are in our counter-terrorism efforts, the more the urgency and cogency of the terrorism threat will diminish in the public's consciousness," said Mr Wong. "We need every resident to be vigilant against this threat. Should we one day be unable to stop a bomb from exploding or a murderous act by an ISIL supporter in Singapore, I hope Singaporeans will have the resilience to overcome the attack, cope with the crisis and maintain our social cohesion."

No Indonesian laws to force terrorists to attend rehabilitation
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2014

INDONESIA has no laws to compel detained terrorists to undergo rehabilitation programmes, and those who do so attend voluntarily, the former commander of the country's elite counter- terrorism task force, Detachment 88, said in Singapore yesterday.

Dr Muhammad Tito Karnavian, who now supervises counter-terrorism efforts, described this as "another challenge for us". But he said there have been promising results from among those who went through the programme and returned to society.

"Of course, we have some who are still quite radical. We're not giving up, of course. We're still approaching them," he said at a seminar on The New Threat Landscape, organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Singapore Press Holdings.

Dr Tito was asked about Indonesia's rehabilitation programme, in the light of reports about the release of jailed militants over the next two years in Indonesia, and the adequacy of efforts to deradicalise and rehabilitate them.

He said the programme was voluntary as "we don't have a law to push them to join this kind of programme". "This is because of the democratic society we have today - people demand more democracy, more freedom, less intervention from government and so on."

He added that the National Counter-Terrorism Agency undertakes programmes which include community engagement to counter ideology, including what is accessible via social media and the Internet.

Earlier, he told about 150 participants, including diplomats and students, that at least 985 suspects have been dealt with since the 2002 Bali bombings.

There are 26 detained and under investigation; 32 on trial; 281 in prison; 97 killed during operations and raids; 12 who died in suicide bombings; three executed under capital punishment; 451 released after serving jail terms; and 83 acquitted due to the lack of evidence.

Responding to a question, Dr Tito said that while there have been improvements to monitoring the movement of illegals and others, the task has not been easy, given Indonesia's size and long border. This is why the authorities work with counterparts in neighbouring countries and use intelligence operations to monitor networks, he added.

Speaking earlier, former deputy prime minister and home affairs minister Wong Kan Seng said threats from groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extend far beyond the areas they currently operate, and Singapore is not immune.

Hence, the vigilance of security services against threats "must ultimately be augmented by the vigilance of the society itself".

Singapore has been fortunate to have the support of Muslim religious leaders and scholars, volunteers and others to build trust and resilience in society. This ensured a strong foundation of communal trust and social cohesion which will help Singapore, and Singaporeans, stay alert.

But Mr Wong worries the public might think the Syrian conflict and ISIS threat are far away and will not affect Singapore.

"The irony is, the more successful we are in our counter-terrorism efforts, the more the urgency and cogency of the terrorism threat will diminish in the public's consciousness."

The measures that speakers suggested to deal with the terrorism threat included cooperation and information sharing among intelligence agencies, border controls, and strong legislation on social media. Speakers included terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna of RSIS.

The seminar ended with the launch of a book, Old Wars, New Methods, by former Straits Times senior writer M. Nirmala.

The book, which details new developments of the terror threat, is published by The Straits Times Press. It costs $15 (including GST), and will be available at major bookstores from today.

Fears over ex-inmates returning to terror acts
By Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2014

INDONESIA'S release of convicted Jemaah Islamiah (JI) member Taufik Abdul Halim last week has drawn attention to the imminent release of a number of terror detainees from Indonesian jails over the next few years and sparked questions over whether they might return to their old ways.

But analysts say the Indonesian authorities are keeping close watch on former militants who have served their prison terms, as they try to stop those who might otherwise return to terror acts, especially with the growing appeal of extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in radical circles.

Over 800 people have been convicted of terror offences over the past decade, and about 270 are still serving their prison terms.

One of those behind bars in Indonesia is Abu Dujana, 44, a former JI military commander who was sentenced to a 15-year jail term in 2008. Another is Abdullah Sunata, 36, who helped set up an Aceh paramilitary camp. He was sentenced to a 10-year jail term in April 2011.

Taufik, a 39-year-old Malaysian bomb expert for JI, was released last week after spending 12 years in an Indonesian prison. He was convicted of trying to bomb a mall in Jakarta in 2001.

"Most are not going to be a threat. Most are going to return to their families and friends and won't cause trouble - although there will certainly be a few who will," Ms Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told The Straits Times.

"What we have seen in the last two to three months is the stepped-up efforts of Indonesian correctional institutions to do a better job of monitoring prisoner activity and getting a better sense of who will constitute a risk when they are released," she said.

A deputy at Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), Major-General Agus Surya Bakti, said recently that around 30 of those released over the years have returned to their terrorist past. A number have been recaptured as they had been monitored by the authorities.

But analysts say the bigger task is to ensure that the number of recidivists remains low. For this to happen, they must be given help to find jobs and rejoin society.

Mr Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalisation, argued that these former terrorists could be saved if they believed that Indonesia is not a legitimate battleground.

The government could then give them vocational training or capital to start a business, he told The Straits Times.

There are several ongoing efforts to engage the former radicals. Among them is one started by terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail of the Institute for International Peacebuilding, who helps former militants get vocational skills and capital to start small businesses, like restaurants and car repair workshops.

Mr Nasir Abas, a former JI leader who now works with the authorities to campaign against terrorism and counsel detained militants, said former terrorist inmates need to have more support to go back to a normal life.

"If we lose confidence, we will lose hope and we could fall back to the people who once 'helped' us," he said, referring to how radical groups try to win back former inmates.

Why KL can't arrest returning ISIS fighters
The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2014

KUALA LUMPUR - Proof, or rather, the lack of it, is holding back police from arresting Malaysians who return after fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, a senior intelligence source said.

"These Malaysians have not been picked up immediately because the burden of proof lies with the police, not the suspects," news website The Malaysian Insider reported the source as saying yesterday, pointing out that this evidence-gathering process requires time.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that although some Malaysians had posted pictures of themselves on social media, these had to be proven as genuine.

"If the Malaysian militant had posted an image of himself wielding an automatic rifle in the Middle East on Instagram or Facebook, police have to verify the image.

"First, was the image really taken in the Middle East? Is the image authentic and genuine? Witnesses are also required to verify if the suspect was really in the Middle East."

The official said that under the new Security Offences (Special Measures) Act passed in 2012, there were a number of boxes which police needed to tick.

"Getting statements from sources in the Middle East to confirm that a Malaysian citizen was there fighting alongside ISIS forces is insufficient," the official said.

"Police must build a strong case before a Malaysian suspect who fought alongside ISIS forces in the Middle East can be charged in court here."

Recent reports say that at least five ISIS militants had returned to Malaysia and that police had arrested three of them. The official said that of the three arrested, two were charged last week.

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