SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man and woman were arrested in July under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for engaging in terrorism-related activities, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a statement on Thursday (Sept 8).
Imran Kassim, the 34-year-old managing director of logistics firm Novo Logistics, was detained for intending to undertake armed violence overseas while administrative assistant Shakirah Begam Abdul Wahab, 23, was issued with a restriction order for initiating and maintaining contact with foreign terrorist fighters.
Investigations showed that Imran was radicalised by the violent propaganda of terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
The MHA said Imran had tried, at least twice, to travel to Syria to join the group: In February 2014, while at a refugee camp in Syria to oversee a humanitarian project organised by his company, he tried unsuccessfully to "slip away from his hosts and make his way to join Isis". In March the following year, he reached out to a pro-Isis foreign contact to facilitate his entry into Syria to join the group, but did not receive a reply.
Imran also wanted to join the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which is trying to establish an Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Since May this year, he also harboured intentions of joining pro-Isis militant groups that had invaded the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines, said the MHA.
Imran, who pledged allegiance to the Isis' self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in July 2014, admitted that he was prepared to attack Singaporean soldiers deployed in the global coalition against the Isis, or hold them as hostages to "demand ransom" from the Singapore Government to help boost the group's finances.
Imran also sought to galvanise support for the Isis online, such as posting propaganda material via various social media accounts that he held under different personas. His radical and pro-militant views caught the attention of people close to him, who then reported him to the authorities, said the MHA.
Shakirah's involvement in terror-related activities started in 2013, when she learnt of the Syrian conflict through media reports. She reached out to a foreign terrorist fighter after coming across his details on social media, and later expanded her network to several other fighters.
Investigations found that Shakirah maintained contact with them "mainly because she enjoyed their attention, and not because she had been deeply radicalised by the violent propaganda of Isis", said the MHA. She continued to keep abreast of developments in Syria, after ceasing contact with the foreign fighters early last year.
The ministry said that placing Shakirah under a Restriction Order (RO) will cut off these contacts and allow her to undergo counselling.
"Shakirah has demonstrated a propensity to engage in risky behaviour which renders her vulnerable to adverse influence and recruitment by terrorists who belong to a group that poses a security threat to Singapore," it added.
A person issued with an RO must abide by several conditions and restrictions. For example, he or she is not permitted to change his or her residence or employment, or travel out of Singapore, without the prior approval of the director of the Internal Security Department.
In a statement on Thursday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said it is strengthening efforts in developing religious teachers' capabilities in "countering the online reach of groups such as Isis".
Muis noted that it was only because people who were close to Imran were "resilient" against such propaganda that they could recognise the seriousness of the situation and alert the authorities promptly.
Shakirah's case showed how foreign terrorist movements employ "very sophisticated tactics" to recruit supporters via social media, said Muis director of religious policy and development Nazirudin Mohd Nasir.
"We need to have a greater awareness of how radical groups attempt to recruit individuals, so that we do not fall into their trap," he said.
Meanwhile, the MHA said Amiruddin Sawir, 54, and Muhammad Harith Jailani, 20, who were detained under the ISA in August 2015, have been released from detention and issued with ROs. An RO issued against Jemaah Islamiyah member Samad Subari, 60, was also allowed to lapse. He was detained in July 2011 and upon his release two years later, he was put on an RO.