23-year-old Singaporean on way to Syria to join anti-ISIS Kurdish militia fighting arrested under ISA

Volunteers from different nationalities, seen here on the outskirts of Kirkuk in Iraq, who have joined Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS militants. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Late last year, Wang Yuandongyi learnt about the Kurds in Syria and how they were facing attacks from terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

He began to empathise with their plight, and started detesting ISIS.

Two months later, he left Singapore to make his way to Syria, but was stopped in time, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Wednesday (March 16), in announcing his arrest.

Wang, a naturalized Singaporean of China origin, has been placed on a Restriction Order with effect from this month.

The 23-year-old was looking to escape from personal setbacks, the ministry said in its release, which gave a summary of what its investigations found.

He was in debt from a failed business venture.

In December 2015, Wang got in touch with a Kurdish militia group online to express his interest to join them in fighting ISIS.

At the same time, he communicated with like-minded individuals online about joining the militia group.

He also discussed possible travel routes to Syria with at least two of them .

In January 2016, Wang left Singapore for a third country, and planned to make his way to Turkey and then Syria from there.

The ministry did not name the third country.

But it said Wang brought with him some Singapore Armed Forces-issued military gear like his uniform and boots, which he planned to use on the battlefield.

However, his plans were thwarted when someone who became aware of his intentions reported him to the authorities.

At Singapore's request, Wang was located by the authorities of the third country and was turned back to Singapore.

The ministry also said Wang had arrived in Singapore as a child and was educated here. He completed National Service and obtained his citizenship in 2014.

He was arrested in February 2016 under the Internal Security Act and placed on a Restriction Order(RO), which limits his movements and activities, from March 2016.

As part of the rehabilitation programme, Wang will undergo psychological counselling to steer him away from resorting to violence. He will also be closely monitored by the authorities under the RO regime.

The ministry said in its release that the Government "takes a stern view against anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place".

"In the case of Wang, even though his motivation to join the Kurdish militia group and fight against ISIS in Syria was not ideologically-driven, the fact remains that he intended to engage in an armed conflict overseas.

"Geography does not mask the fact that such individuals would have demonstrated a dangerous tendency to support the use of violence," it said.

"Their involvement in overseas conflicts can also jeopardise Singapore's national interests, including our bilateral relations. They are deemed to pose a threat to Singapore's security, and will be firmly dealt with in accordance with our laws," the ministry added.

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