Wednesday 27 January 2016

Singapore's detention laws 'sufficient to foil attacks'

By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2016

Singapore's security laws are sufficient to detain extremists before they can execute any violent acts, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has said, adding, however, that the Government has continued to ponder the need for added preventive measures.

Speaking to reporters yesterday on the sidelines of a conference in Kuala Lumpur on deradicalising terrorists, he said "process-related" aspects of security measures were being looked at.

"We've been thinking about this for a long time," Mr Shanmugam said when asked about the possibility of Singapore adding more preventive anti-terror laws, as Malaysia has done and Indonesia is planning to do.

"We thankfully have the Internal Security Act and the Internal Security Act allows us to move well ahead of the terrorists," he said.

"As it stands now, the detention laws are sufficient."

Malaysia last year added several preventive laws to give it wider powers to cripple terrorist activities but the new legislation, especially the National Security Council Act, has been criticised as moves by the current administration to stifle dissent and override checks and balances in the government.

Indonesia is also looking to enact new preventive laws this year after the deadly Jan 14 attacks in Jakarta, as it is not a crime as yet to support or join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group. ISIS has taken responsibility for the Jakarta attacks and is threatening more in the region.

The minister also said there was no "specific and existing threat" that he could point to, but cautioned that there are "terrorists moving around the region who have in the past targeted Singapore".

"There is both the developments internationally and the movement to radicalise people, which has had an impact on our people. Some of them have become radicalised, we have had to deal with it," he said.

Religious terrorism is most serious threat today: K Shanmugam
Terrorism in the name of religion is the most serious threat as it knows no borders, says Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam.
Channel NewsAsia, 25 Jan 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: The most serious threat which many countries face today is religious terrorism as it knows no borders, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam on Monday (Jan 25).

Terrorism done in the name of religion, or based on the misinterpretation of religion "appeals to people who want to go out and kill others,” he said, speaking in Malaysia on the sidelines of an international conference against terrorism. “Can any country deal with this alone? Can Singapore deal with this alone? It's cross-border, people move freely; they go off to Syria to fight, and then they come back and they want to kill others.”

Mr Shanmugam said Singapore’s laws have allowed the country to move ahead in countering the threat of terrorism. Citing the recent arrests of 27 Bangladeshis for terror links, he said Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA) has allowed the country to detain extremists before they execute their plans.

“I think our current laws have been effective, but the situation could change - I can’t predict what could happen,” he said. “As of now, our detention laws are sufficient, but there’re other aspects which we’re looking at - they are more process-related issues.”

The minister noted that other countries such as Indonesia have been looking to change their laws in the wake of terror attacks. “Indonesia has people who are hardcore terrorists in jail, but under current laws, they have to be released. They mean trouble for the rest of the region,” he said.


At the International Conference on Deradicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Shanmugam also noted that the young are at a higher risk of being radicalised. He stressed the need to take special effort to reach out to the young, as they may be more idealistic and easily influenced by radical teachings.

Mr Shanmugam pointed out that the Islamic State militant group has managed to use social media effectively to spread its ideology, and stressed that countering terrorism cannot be done with “hard measures” alone.

“Radicalisation takes place when people are convinced of the justness of a certain cause,” he explained. “We need to convince them that they are on the wrong path, and that their interpretation of religion is wrong. There is a more humane interpretation which preaches universal brotherhood and peace.”

To help with the deradicalisation process, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore has the inter-agency aftercare group - a network of Muslim organisations which provide family care services and hold counter-ideology forums.

“Unless you deal with it as a matter of ideology and convince people of the rightness of your cause, you will not win the battle,” he said. “You’ve got to win the minds and the hearts - it’s got to be a deradicalisation programme which shows people what the right way through is, and at the same time, give them and their families hope of a new life.”

“It can’t be a case of ‘arrest them, lock them up and throw away the keys’,” he added.

Mr Shanmugam also said that Singapore has set up aid channels to offer humanitarian assistance to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. This could help to channel genuine concern towards the conflict to effectively helping people, he explained.

The conference in Kuala Lumpur was attended by representatives from ASEAN member states, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, the US and UK.

During the trip, Mr Shanmugam also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz to discuss issues of bilateral interest, said Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs in a news release on Tuesday.

ISIS' Malaysian-Indonesian unit sends video warning to Malaysia
The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2016

KUALA LUMPUR • The Malay-speaking wing of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has sent a warning to Malaysia for stepping up its campaign against the terror group.

In a strongly defiant video posted in Bahasa Malaysia on an ISIS-sanctioned website, the Malaysian-Indonesian unit of ISIS, called the Katibah Nusantara, threatened revenge for the arrests of its members.

Titled "Mesej Awam Kepada Malaysia" (Public Message for Malaysia), the video warned: "If you catch us, we will only increase in number; but if you let us be, we will be closer to our goal of bringing back the rule of the Khalifah (caliph).

"We will never bow down to the democratic system of governance as we will only follow Allah's rules."

Another video called on Katibah's "brothers" from Somalia's Al-Shabaab, a militant group aligned with the Al-Qaeda, to join the group in "the real front line in Syria".

In the video, which lasts more than a minute, Katibah member Abdul Halid Dari spoke in Bahasa Malaysia, urging his compatriots from Al-Shabaab to join ISIS and its so-called jihad or holy war.

The Bukit Aman special branch counter-terrorism division head, Datuk Ayob Khan, said the direct challenge to the government reflected Katibah's brazen stance.

"It further proves that (ISIS), especially the Katibah group, views our country as secular, and as such makes the government and the people its targets. This is no doubt in retaliation against our security forces' actions against them," he told The Star.

Since last Friday, Malaysia has arrested seven suspected ISIS militants who were planning attacks on strategic locations in the country.

Mr Ayob said the division would be more vigilant, and that reliable intelligence was the key to prevent attacks.

On the video addressed to the Somalians, Mr Ayob said that although it had subtitles in Arabic, intelligence agencies suspect there are Malaysians in Al-Shabaab as Abdul Halid spoke in Malay.

Katibah is believed to have more than 200 fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia.


Region's leaders vow to take tougher anti-terror stance
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2016

Regional leaders have vowed to take a tougher stance against Islamic militancy, amid its growing threat to the region's security, including implementing new anti-terror laws that give wide-ranging powers to the authorities.

Opening a conference focused on deradicalising terrorists, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is "very real". "This is a challenge that faces us all around the world. We are far from immune to this danger in Malaysia," he said.

He said a slew of new security laws was required to ensure the safety of the nation, amid criticism that his government was stifling civil liberties. "There are no civil liberties under Daesh, and there is no shield against those who are set on committing acts of terrorism," he said yesterday, using one of the names for ISIS.

Last year, Malaysia added several preventive laws against terrorism - seen by many as giving too much power to the government - to the existing Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

Indonesia said it would outlaw involvement with militant groups with legal changes this year. But its anti-terrorism agency's international cooperation chief Petrus Golose told reporters yesterday that "we will not be as harsh as Malaysia, we will look at human rights".

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had promised after Jan 14's deadly attacks in Jakarta to give police preventive powers. Indonesia does not have laws prohibiting its people from joining or supporting ISIS.

Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said society must be prepared to face the accelerating spread of militant propaganda, especially via social media. While his ministry said last week that it had rounded up 27 Bangladeshi nationals working in Singapore late last year who were planning extremist activities, he said "it can't be a situation of arrest them, lock them up and throw away the keys".

Alarm in the region's Malay-speaking countries has soared after repeated threats of local attacks from ISIS in past months culminated in the Jakarta attacks that killed eight people and injured 28.

A video has also surfaced from the Malay-language wing of ISIS, threatening reprisals against Malaysia if it did not release detained ISIS recruits and continued to arrest them. Malaysian police say it is the first video in Malay bearing the ISIS logo that has been issued threatening the country.

Among the militants in the Malay-language wing is Indonesian Bahrun Naim, who is said to have masterminded the Jakarta attacks from Syria. Inspector-General Petrus said Bahrun has cells not just in Malaysia and Indonesia, but also in Malay-speaking communities across the world.

He said Bahrun has always used cyberspace to disseminate information to the media and was continuing this strategy. "He is a cyber-terrorism expert who is very well-connected with other terrorist organisations around the world."

Malaysian counter-terror police arrested seven people with suspected links to ISIS over the weekend, including one linked to Bahrun, bringing the total they have detained over the past two years to 157.

Department head Ayob Khan Pitchay Mydin told reporters yesterday that while the seven were instructed to carry out attacks, they were only "general instructions".

"(No suspects) have gotten to the implementation stage, just discussions only. We have managed to disrupt it at this phase," he said.

ASEAN anti-terror digital messaging centre to be launched in May: Malaysia DPM Ahmad Zahid
The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2016

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will launch ASEAN's first messaging centre to combat violent extremism in cyberspace on May 1, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday (Jan 26).

"We are adopting the template used by the United States and the United Arab Emirates to establish the centre," he told reporters after closing the International Conference on Deradicalisation and Countering Violent Extremism (IDC 2016) in Kuala Lumpur.

"The Government has allocated an initial RM200 million (S$66.65 million) for this purpose," he added.

Malaysia had confirmed last October that it would host a regional centre that sends out the "right" message to counter the distorted narrative of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in its recruitment of foreign fighters.

While details on the centre were not yet available it is likely to resemble the one already set up by the US in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is designed to counter ISIS's social media strength and present a more attractive alternative.

Mr Zahid, also the Home Minister, said on Tuesday discussions were being held among three government agencies to manage the centre.

In his closing speech at the conference, he said it was imperative for all nations to employ more effective strategies and commit more resources to counter radical narratives, including on digital platforms.

"Malaysia has moved ahead in developing a counter messaging centre in line with its efforts to counter extremism in cyberspace," he said.

The two-day conference saw experts from ASEAN countries and their strategic partners such as the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia sharing their respective countries' experiences in deradicalisation and rehabilitation programmes.

Malaysia and the United States agreed to set up the centre in November last year after the meeting between Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the 27th ASEAN Summit.

Jakarta 'on right track' in fight against terror
It is using both 'hard and soft' approaches, and working with neighbouring countries, says Indonesian minister
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Jan 2016

Indonesia is on the right track to tackle the terrorism threat with a decisive strategy combining both "hard and soft" measures to thwart any attacks, said its security czar.

Aside from sharpening the firepower of its security forces and tapping its religious leaders to prevent self-radicalisation, the country is also working with its neighbours in this region to pre-empt any terrorists, said Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

The cooperation goes beyond sharing information to cutting off financial support for the terrorists' activities as well, said Mr Luhut, revealing that the authorities found that terrorist-related networks in Syria and Australia were supporting Indonesia-based militant groups by providing funds of up to US$700,000 (S$1 million).

Noting that attacks and campaigns of militant groups in this region have become more coordinated, Mr Luhut said: "Sole reliance on a hard approach to fight ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) is hardly effective... We need the soft approach, intelligence cooperation and cross-border cooperation to minimise the threat."

His speech yesterday to about 70 security and defence officials came in the wake of the Jan 14 blasts in Jakarta that left eight dead, including the four attackers. ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks.

Mr Luhut was speaking at the fourth Fullerton Forum: The Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting, aimed at laying the groundwork for top defence officials and military brass attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in June. He is the first foreign dignitary to deliver the keynote address at the annual meeting.

Explaining Indonesia's hardline stance against terrorists, Mr Luhut said the extremist movement aims to disrupt everyday life, destabilise a country and demoralise its population. But it has not worked in Indonesia because the government is clear it does not negotiate with any terrorist and would retaliate immediately in the event of an attack.

Following the blasts, in which two terrorists blew themselves up, the other two were gunned down by Indonesian crack units.

"For us, we want to bring stability to the people of Indonesia," said Mr Luhut. The former commander of the Indonesian Army's Special Forces' (Kopassus) anti-terror squad cautioned that the terrorists cannot be underestimated as they are "irrational".

To pre-empt attacks and dismantle the militant cells, Mr Luhut said the government is working with its religious leaders to make people understand that "ISIS is not Islam", and promote religious tolerance.

Indonesia, with 230 million Muslims, has the world's biggest Muslim population.

During his 30-minute speech, Mr Luhut also outlined other counter- terrorism measures like putting extremist ideologues in separate prisons to curtail their influence on other inmates and revoking the citizenship of Indonesians who leave the country to join ISIS.

At the same time, Indonesia has to ensure its economy promotes wealth equality. "We cannot just fix security, establish good intelligence cooperation, without the distribution of wealth."

Beyond their own efforts, countries in the region must also work together, because no country can "declare (that) they are immune from this kind of threat", Mr Luhut told reporters.

After the Jakarta blasts, Indonesia immediately contacted and alerted its neighbours, including Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, to share information.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was also present, said: "Since ISIS has become coordinated, we need to also become coordinated. No country will be able to minimise this risk alone."

He added: "The more we cooperate and collaborate, the stronger we become. This is a fight that may last many decades and we need many, many partners in this."

Malaysia nabs 7 men with ISIS links
By Trinna Leong, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2016

Seven individuals suspected to be linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group were arrested in five states in a three-day operation from Friday, Malaysia's police department said yesterday.

"All suspects are from the same cell group, responsible for planning and launching terror attacks in strategic locations throughout Malaysia," said police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.

One of those arrested was receiving instructions from Muhammad Bahrun Naim, the Indonesian terrorist who allegedly orchestrated the Jakarta attacks over a week ago. Another suspect was taking orders from Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, also known as Abu Hamzah, a Malaysian terrorist in Syria. Both Bahrun Naim and Abu Hamzah are ISIS members.

This is the first time Malaysian officials have revealed that local militants are taking orders from Bahrum Naim, who leads Katibah Nusantara, the Malay-speaking arm of ISIS.

In the past, Malaysian and Singaporean militants linked with Jemaah Islamiah took orders from the terror network's spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian who is now behind bars.

"Cross-regional links involving Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines seem to be intensifying," said Ms Sidney Jones, a terrorism analyst and director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

Malaysian police have arrested over 100 individuals suspected to be linked to ISIS since 2014. The country has been on high security alert after several militants launched an attack in Jakarta on Jan 14.

Ms Elina Noor, an analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur, said that "the threat of expansion rings more urgently because it suggests increased organisation by Daesh sympathisers". Daesh is another name for ISIS.

The latest police operations are a follow-up to an arrest of a male suspect in Ampang, Selangor. The seven male suspects, aged between 26 and 50, were nabbed in Kedah, Johor, Pahang, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Bullets, extremist books, an ISIS flag and a propaganda video were confiscated.

A police official told The Straits Times that the authorities would decide within 20 days if they have enough evidence to charge those arrested. The official declined to comment on the link between Bahrun Naim and one of the Malaysian suspects.

The arrests were made before an international conference on counter-terrorism that will be held in Kuala Lumpur today and tomorrow. Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, will deliver at the event a statement on Singapore's strategies in dealing with radicalisation as well as its community engagement efforts.

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