Rehabilitation of 16-year-old who planned to attack mosques in S’pore will draw on past cases: ISD

A tactical vest and a Carousell listing of machete intended for use by the youth to carry out his attacks. PHOTOS: INTERNAL SECURITY DEPARTMENT

SINGAPORE - The rehabilitation of the 16-year old student influenced by far-right ideology will draw on best practices gained in steering previous youth terror detainees away from extremism, the Internal Security Department(ISD) has said.

This includes facilitating his studies - in consultation with his parents and former school - while he is in detention, and getting tutors to help him prepare for his national exams this year.

A mentor has also been identified for him, the ISD said on Wednesday (Feb 3).

In addition, the department is working with the National Council of Churches of Singapore, which is keen to be involved in the youth's rehabilitation, to identify a suitable Christian counsellor for him.

An ISD spokesman gave this update on the student in a statement, a week after his detention was announced. The Protestant Christian student had made plans to kill Muslims at two mosques on March 15, the anniversary of the Christchurch terror attack.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said last week that Singapore's approach of rehabilitation is better for reintegrating them into society than charging and imprisoning them.

In its update, the ISD also disclosed in detail for the first time how current terror detainees and those on a Restriction Order (RO) are rehabilitated in a "holistic, intensive and long-term" approach that involves religious, psychological and social aspects.

Rehabilitation is customised to a detainee or RO supervisee's unique circumstances, with extensive collaboration between various stakeholders to maximise the chances of success, it added.

It said the effort to combat terrorism and radicalism in Singapore has always been a joint effort by the Government and community. Said a spokesman: "We have been ahead of the curve compared to some countries, because we have been lucky to have a Muslim community that was prepared to step up to work with the Government to deal with terrorism."

Current detainees and RO supervisees attend religious counselling sessions at least once a month to get proper religious guidance and counter radical ideology they had imbibed, the ISD said.

They also work closely with psychologists who help them re-frame the faulty reasoning underlying their radical beliefs, and regularly assess behavioural and cognitive aspects of their progress.

For social support, families can make weekly visits and an aftercare officer assigned to them.

Case officers also continue supervising and guiding the detainees after they are released on RO.

On Wednesday, the ISD said its assessment is that violent Islamist extremism continues to pose the dominant terrorism threat in Singapore, fuelled by propaganda online and the presence of terror groups and supporters in the region.

"Apart from the case of the 16-year-old youth, we have thus far not seen any signs that far-right extremism has gained significant traction in Singapore," it added.

"Nevertheless, should the threat environment evolve to the point where far-right extremism is assessed to resonate to a greater extent here, the government is confident that we can count on the relevant religious and community organisations to step forward in the same manner that the RRG and ACG have done, to work with the government in a whole-of-society effort to tackle the threat to Singapore and Singaporeans," it said, referring to the Religious Rehabilitation Group and Inter-Agency Aftercare Group that have worked with it to rehabilitate terror detainees.

"The reactions by the various religious leaders and groups since news on the 16-year-old broke last week, attest to this," the ISD added.

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