The Singaporean fighter who anchored a recent propaganda video by terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been fighting on its front lines since he entered Syria three years ago.
Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39, suffered an injury in combat, and was deployed to areas in Iraq and Syria, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday, without giving further details.
It confirmed that he is the third Singaporean known to have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
The other two, Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali and Maimunah Abdul Kadir, are believed to be still in Syria with their families. Both left for Syria in 2014.
"Their involvement in an overseas armed conflict jeopardises Singapore's security," MHA said.
"In Shahdan's case, it is compounded by the fact that he is also actively propagating ISIS' violent ideology and rallying others to engage in combat in support of ISIS. This is of particular concern as we have seen a spike in the number of self-radicalisation cases following the rise of ISIS and proliferation of its propaganda materials."
MHA issued the statement in response to media queries on Shahdan, who appeared in an ISIS video that surfaced online at the weekend under the assumed name "Abu Uqayl from Singapore". Among other things, he called on viewers to join ISIS fighters in East Asia or travel to the Middle East to fight.
The ministry had said on Sunday that Shahdan left Singapore in 2014 to work in the Middle East, where he is believed to have been radicalised. Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also said the Internal Security Department (ISD) had been keeping tabs on Shahdan.
Yesterday, MHA released further details of Shahdan's background and how he turned radical, as well as of his continued contact with family members - and attempts to radicalise them - while there.
Shahdan grew up in Singapore, and dropped out of school at a young age. He was a secret society member with a string of drug and criminal convictions. Between 1997 and 2009, he was in and out of jail, and was also on drug supervision regimes. MHA said: "He did not hold down any stable work and took up odd jobs. He did not show any obvious signs of being religiously inclined. Nor did he show any radical tendencies."
Sometime in early 2014, Shahdan left Singapore for the Middle East. He took up different jobs in tourism and renovation, and tried unsuccessfully to start a business. "At the same time, family members who visited him there noticed that he had become more observant of his religious obligations," said MHA.
"He reportedly attended religious gatherings, and was believed to have subsequently become radicalised by ISIS' violent ideology. He told at least one of his family members of his interest to perform jihad."
In September that year, Shahdan made his way to Syria to join ISIS.
He is believed to have contacted one of his family members while he was at the Turkish-Syrian border, saying he was on his way to Syria. He later asked for the family member's prayers for his safe crossing.
PROLIFERATION OF PROPAGANDA
Their involvement in an overseas armed conflict jeopardises Singapore's security. In Shahdan's case, it is compounded by the fact that he is also actively propagating ISIS' violent ideology and rallying others to engage in combat in support of ISIS. This is of particular concern as we have seen a spike in the number of self-radicalisation cases following the rise of ISIS and proliferation of its propaganda materials.
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
MHA also disclosed that while he was in ISIS-controlled territory, Shahdan dispensed religious advice to family and friends in Singapore.
"He has expressed the hope that his family would migrate to ISIS' self-declared caliphate, as in his view, it is a sin to live in an infidel country. He has also said that he would intercede for 70 of his relatives should he achieve martyrdom, and exhorted his family members to support ISIS," it said.
"None of them is known to have responded to his overtures."
But MHA noted that Shahdan's case, as with other recent cases of radicalised Singaporeans who had to be dealt with under the Internal Security Act, illustrates the important role that family, friends or any individual who may be close to a potentially radicalised individual can play in reporting such individuals as early as possible.
"The Government continues to urge the public to do its part in countering the threats of terrorism and radicalisation," it said.
"The Government has consistently taken the view that anyone who supports, promotes or undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how such violence is rationalised, or where such violence takes place, poses a security threat to Singapore and Singaporeans."