Bangladeshi construction worker arrested for terrorism-related activities

A 26-year-old Bangladeshi construction worker was picked up under the Internal Security Act earlier this month for his involvement in terrorism-related activities.

Ahmed Faysal was arrested on Nov 2, and preliminary investigations by the Internal Security Department found he had been radicalised and intended to carry out acts of armed violence in support of his religion, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Faysal, who is Muslim, is from the eastern part of Bangladesh and obtained his secondary education in a village madrasah.

In February 2017, he left for Singapore and started work for a building products company. His radicalisation journey started in 2018 when he imbibed pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) materials online, the ministry said.

Proficient in English and adept at using social media, he actively disseminated pro-ISIS propaganda, in a mix of English and Bengali, that featured the oppression of Muslims overseas and promoted armed violence.

He would translate some of the content he found online from English to Bengali, and repost it on his social media accounts - some of which he created under fictitious names to evade detection - to encourage other Bangladeshi Muslims to take up arms, MHA added.

He went a step further and bought foldable knives that he later confessed to the authorities he was planning to use for attacks against Hindu police officers back home.

MHA said investigations so far have not indicated that Faysal intended to carry out any acts of violence in Singapore.

But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday: "If he finds that he can't go back to Bangladesh immediately, could he have decided one day to just attack people in Singapore?... These things have no boundaries."

Mr Shanmugam added that the Commercial Affairs Department is also investigating Faysal for possible terrorism financing offences.

The MHA said Faysal is not linked to the string of attacks that happened in France last month.

Ahmed Faysal intended to carry out attacks in Bangladesh, said the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Ahmed Faysal intended to carry out attacks in Bangladesh, said the Ministry of Home Affairs.

But he was drawn to ISIS' goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and wanted to travel there to fight alongside the group against the Syrian government. He believed he would be a martyr if he died while doing so, MHA added.

In the middle of last year, he shifted his allegiance to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria. MHA said: "He donated funds to a Syria-based organisation on the understanding that his donations would benefit the HTS' cause in Syria."

The ministry further said Faysal had expressed support for other terrorist groups, including the Al-Qaeda and Somalia-based Al-Shabaab. It noted that he believed Muslims have a duty to engage in armed jihad, to help fellow Muslims who are oppressed.

Apart from Syria, he was also willing to travel to Kashmir to fight against the perceived enemies of Islam, and prepared himself for battle by watching firearms-related videos online, the ministry added.

But he had a rather different public image. An MHA spokesman said Faysal lived in a dormitory and is not known to have interacted much with his dorm mates.

"Beyond his social media activities, there is no information that Faysal had tried to influence his colleagues, dormitory mates or anyone else in Singapore with his radical views," the spokesman said. "It appears that none of them were aware of Faysal's radicalisation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline 'Bangladeshi construction worker arrested for terrorism-related activities'. Print Edition | Subscribe