Rising threat of far-right extremism could be worsened by global conflicts like Ukraine war: ISD

White supremacist Brenton Tarrant killed 51 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The threat of far-right extremism has overshadowed that of Islamist terrorism in some Western countries, and the Internal Security Department (ISD) warned that this brand of extremism - an emerging danger to Singapore - could be galvanised further by global conflicts.

In a report published on Wednesday (July 13), the department pointed out how the perpetrators of two shootings in the United States in May this year and in August 2019 were apparently inspired by white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tarrant had published his manifesto online prior to the attack in March 2019 and live-streamed part of his attack on Facebook, said ISD.

He had also inspired the first individual in Singapore who was self-radicalised by far-right extremist ideology.

The 16-year-old student was detained under the Internal Security Act in December 2020 for plotting to attack Muslims at two mosques here on the second anniversary of the Christchurch attacks.

The youth, who is the youngest person detained under the ISA, had watched the live streaming of Tarrant's attack and read his manifesto.

"Far-right extremism elements are known to embrace the gaming culture, using online shooting games as a channel for recruitment. In this manner, far-right extremism narratives have crossed borders and developed traction among youth," said ISD in the fourth edition of its Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report.

ISD also highlighted how the Russian-Ukraine war may serve as a rallying point for those who embrace such extremism, noting that such individuals have shown an interest in the conflict since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Russia's military invasion of Ukraine in February amplified interest within online far-right extremism communities, where the chatter appears to be dominated by the pro-Ukraine narrative, said the department.

It has been reported that about 20,000 volunteers - likely including far-right extremism elements - have responded to Ukraine's invitation to join its international legion, ISD added.

Several Western countries have contributed significant caches of weapons towards Ukraine's defence, and the department said far-right extremism-aligned foreign fighters as well as the proliferation of surplus weapons would be likely by-products of a prolonged conflict in Ukraine.

Given how Singapore is an open and globally connected society, developments abroad may also have repercussions on the Republic's security landscape, said ISD.

It warned how extremist elements can exploit conflicts overseas and tap on grievances to promote their radical narratives and recruit supporters.

"It is important to maintain a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of hate speech and extremist rhetoric," said ISD.

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