Teo Chee Hean, National security

Terrorist threat to Singapore remains: DPM Teo

Arrest of ex-detainee who returned to old ways shows de-radicalisation is not easy

A LAW graduate turned self-radicalised terrorist, who had spent three years in detention but went back to his old ways, was re-arrested last September.

Revealing his case in Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean cited it as proof of how difficult it is to de-radicalise someone once he has been drawn to terrorist ideology.

That is why Singapore must keep at investing in the rehabilitation of its terrorist detainees, said DPM Teo during the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Abdul Basheer, who was drawn to terrorism through the Internet - hence the label of self-radicalised or more commonly known as a do-it-yourself terrorist - was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 2007, after he made plans for militant jihad in Afghanistan.

After his release in February 2010, he made some headway in re-integrating into society. But he was caught again late last year for wanting to revert to undertaking militant jihad abroad.

"He even made inquiries as to how he could leave Singapore, illegally if necessary, to pursue his jihad plans," said DPM Teo, who is Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs.

The former polytechnic law lecturer, now 34, was re-arrested by the Internal Security Department and placed under detention in October to prevent him from pursuing his violent agenda.

"The terrorist threat remains a persistent one, both globally and regionally," said Mr Teo in his update on the Home Team's counter-terrorism efforts.

He revealed that regional terror groups such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI) remain resilient and continue to recruit operatives and carry out attacks in neighbouring countries.

"We are also concerned by terrorist elements' growing use of social media to spread propaganda and recruit new radicals," he said.

"With Singapore's high Internet penetration, especially among youth, we need to inoculate our young from coming under the influence of radical ideology."

On the detentions thus far, he said since January 2002, 64 people have been detained under the ISA for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.

Of these, more than two-thirds have been released.

They include three detainees released between last November and last month: Ishak Mohamed Noohu, 52, and Mohamed Hussain Saynudin, 39, who were both placed on Restriction Orders and Maksham Mohd Shah, 31, who was released on Suspension Direction, meaning he may be detained again if he does not meet conditions of his release.

The first two were members of the local JI terrorist network, while Maksham was a self-radicalised individual detained in December 2007.

The MHA said in a statement yesterday that all three were assessed as no longer posing a security threat that required preventive detention.

On the progressive release of such individuals, DPM Teo cited the work of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which does counselling work for detainees. Their work "is so important and must continue", he added.

The group, made up of Islamic scholars and teachers, will mark its 10th anniversary later this month by organising an international conference on terrorist rehabilitation and community resilience with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Experts from all over, including the Middle East, Asean, Europe and the United States, will attend the conference.

franchan@sph.com.sg

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