How a Sec 4 student who planned to attack mosques in S'pore was radicalised within months

Tactical vest and a Carousell listing of machete intended for use by the youth to carry out his attacks.
Tactical vest and a Carousell listing of machete intended for use by the youth to carry out his attacks.PHOTOS: ISD

SINGAPORE - A 16-year-old Singaporean boy planning a terror attack on Muslims at two mosques was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month.

A Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, he is the first detainee to be influenced by far-right extremist ideology and the youngest person detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities to date.

The Secondary 4 student was found to have made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques here, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said on Wednesday (Jan 27).

He had chosen Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands as his targets because they were near his home.

Here are details of how he became radicalised and his plans, released by the ISD.

2019

• The student frequently visited online sites and forums specialising in gory material.

• In late 2019, he viewed propaganda videos of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) while surfing for violent materials and became angry after viewing a video showing the execution of Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

• He erroneously concluded that Islam taught its followers to kill Christians.

• In late 2019, his interest was piqued by an image of Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant’s rifle online.

• He found Tarrant’s manifesto and live-streamed video of the March 15 terror attack on two mosques that killed 51 people and injured another 40. The anti-Muslim aspect of Tarrant’s ideology resonated with him.

2020

• The turning point was the terror stabbings on Oct 29 last year in the Notre-Dame basilica in Nice, France, by a 21-year-old Tunisian national, which left three people dead. 

• The student said it convinced him of the need to defend “my people”, and he believed an attack by Muslims on Christians would happen.

• He also believed the Muslim fertility rate would lead to the subjugation of Christians to Islamic rule in Singapore, and started making detailed plans to attack two mosques on March 15 this year, the second anniversary of the Christchurch attacks.

• He chose two mosques near his home – Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands.


The youth had chosen Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang (left) and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands as his targets. PHOTOS: ST FILE

• He did online reconnaissance on both, planned his travel route, and identified mosque entrances and where to park his vehicle.

• At first, he planned to use an assault rifle similar to the one Tarrant used, and found a prospective seller on Telegram. But he suspected a scam when the seller asked for bitcoin payment, and did not follow through. 

• After searching for firearms online, he realised it would be difficult to get one, given the strict gun-control laws.

• He also considered joining the Singapore Rifle Association.

• He researched how to make a triacetone triperoxide or TATP bomb. TATP was used in the July 2005 London transit bombings and the November 2015 Paris attacks, but is highly unstable and prone to accidental detonation.

• He considered mimicking Tarrant’s plan of setting fire to the mosques with petrol. But he dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns.

• He settled on a machete as his weapon, and found one by arms manufacturer Smith & Wesson on Carousell, which he added to his favourite listings.

• He intended to save money for the purchase, and believed he could do so in time for his planned attacks.

• He also watched YouTube videos on how to attack using a machete and was confident of hitting the arteries of his targets by randomly slashing at the neck and chest areas.

• In November, he bought a tactical vest online, and planned to adorn it with right-wing extremist symbols which Tarrant wore – the Black Sun and Celtic Cross.


Tactical vest bought by the youth from an online platform. PHOTO: ISD


Carousel listing of machete that youth intended to purchase for attacks. PHOTO: ISD

• He intended to modify it to hold a mobile device that could live-stream the attack, as Tarrant had.

• Like Tarrant, he intended to drive between the two attack sites.

• He did not have a driver’s licence, and planned to steal his father’s credit card to rent a BlueSG car from a car-sharing station near his home.

• He also watched videos on renting a BlueSG car and operating an automatic transmission vehicle.

• In November, he prepared two documents which he intended to disseminate prior to his attacks.

One message, which he drafted after the attack on Notre-Dame basilica, called on the French people to “stand up for what is right”, claiming that “we cannot let them (Muslims) lurk in our bushes and wait for them to attack”. He referred to his intended attacks as a “massacre”, an “act of vengeance” and a “call for war” against Islam. He also referred to readers as a “great audience”, in reference to his intention to livestream his attacks.

The second document is a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam and his belief that “violence should never be solved with peace”, because peace, while “moral”, is “nowhere near effective” as violence. He expressed hope that “my act of extremism or some would call ‘a justifiable act of violence’… would cause a change in those who believe that Islamic extremism is right”. The draft borrowed heavily from Tarrant’s manifesto and referred to Tarrant as a “saint” and the Christchurch attacks as a “justifiable killing of Muslims”. It was unfinished when he was arrested.

• After ISD received intelligence about a Singapore-based individual expressing a desire to attack Muslims here, it identified the student.

• He was arrested on Nov 26, and officers found he knew what he was doing, notwithstanding his age. Given the specific nature of his plans, he was assessed as posing an imminent security threat.

• He was issued an order of detention on Dec 23, and is the youngest person to be detained under the ISA to date.