SINGAPORE - Self-radicalised individuals remain the primary terrorism threat within Singapore, making up nearly nine in 10 cases dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since 2019.
Of the 16 people issued with an order of detention or restriction order from January 2019, 14 were self-radicalised, said the Internal Security Department (ISD) in a report on Wednesday (June 23).
It noted that 10 of them were Singaporeans and four of them were foreigners.
Of the locals, eight were detained and two were placed on restriction orders. The four foreigners, comprising three Indonesians and one Bangladeshi who worked here, were all detained.
The remaining two cases are Singaporeans. Sheik Heikel Khalid Bafana was detained in March 2019 after being involved in the civil war in Yemen and working for a foreign power as a paid agent while in Yemen.
Rasidah Mazlan, was issued with a restriction order that same month for contacting foreign entities suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities.
The large threat posed by self-radicalised individuals is a trend that the ISD has observed since 2015. The department said in the third edition of the Singapore Terror Threat Assessment report that 44 out of 54 individuals dealt with under the ISA are self-radicalised, comprising 32 Singaporeans and 12 foreigners.
Of the 14 self-radicalised people dealt with since 2019, 12 were supporters of terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or were inspired by the Syrian conflict.
The ISD noted that most of them continued to support ISIS, even with the group's territorial losses and military defeat.
The department shared several examples of such individuals in its report, including the case of Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen who was detained in May 2019. Haja was a follower of a pro-ISIS Sri Lankan preacher who masterminded the deadly Easter Sunday bombing in the country in April 2019.
It found that Haja did extensive research to migrate to Syria to join ISIS. While he decided against travelling to Syria, as he feared he would be killed or injured there, his support for the group continued until his arrest.
"It is evident that the group's territorial and leadership losses have not diminished its appeal to those radicalised by its violent, apocalyptic narratives," said the ISD.
But it is not just Islamist terrorism that is a threat to Singapore, the department said, flagging the emerging risk posed by far-right extremism.
It cited a 16-year-old Singaporean student who was detained under the ISA last December for plotting to attack Muslims at two mosques. He is the first detainee to be influenced by far-right extremism.
While there is no indication of such radical ideology gaining significant traction in Singapore, this does not mean the country is immune to such threats, the ISD said.
In February, the department detained full-time national serviceman Amirull Ali, 20, for planning to use a knife to attack and kill Jews leaving a synagogue.
In both these cases of self-radicalised lone actors, the ISD said easily obtainable weapons were used to aim attacks on vulnerable targets. This reflects a wider trend in recent years where easily available means, such as knives and vehicles, have been used for terrorist attacks, noted the department.
The ISD said none of the radicalised foreigners discovered here had any plans to conduct attacks in Singapore, but their association with terrorists overseas made them a security threat.
Since 2015, more than 40 Bangladeshi workers have been found to be radicalised.
All but one of them were sent back, with only Ahmed Faysal still detained under the ISA. He is also under investigation for possible terror financing offences.
The ISD also said that since 2015, 21 foreign domestic workers here have been found to have been radicalised.
Three of them, all ISIS supporters, were detained under the ISA in September 2019 and convicted of terrorism financing offences in 2020. Two have been repatriated after their prison terms, and one is still in jail.
The other 18 domestic workers were repatriated after investigations were completed.
In 2020, three Malaysian workers were found to be radicalised, bringing the total number of radicalised Malaysians repatriated since 2018 to six. All three had harboured the intention of travelling to Syria to undertake armed violence.
Proving an update on terrorism financing here, the ISD said that since 2016, two locals and nine foreigners have been prosecuted for such offences.
"Singapore takes a firm stance against terrorism financing-related activities, including those related to the generation of funds, movement of funds, and the use of such funds, whether locally or overseas," it said.