Three radicalised Indonesian maids detained under Internal Security Act

SINGAPORE - Three Indonesian domestic workers have been issued detention orders under the Internal Security Act and are being investigated for financing terrorism.

They are Anindia Afiyantari, 33, Retno Hernayani, 36, and Turmini, 31.

All three had been working in Singapore for between six and 13 years at the point of their arrest, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a statement on Monday afternoon (Sept 23). They are the first foreign domestic workers to be issued such detention orders.

A fourth maid was also arrested as part of the investigation. Although she did not subscribe to these radical beliefs, she was aware that the others had been radicalised and did not report them. She has since been repatriated to Indonesia, the MHA said.

The three maids became radicalised last year after viewing online material on terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Their convictions deepened after they joined multiple pro-ISIS social media chat groups and channels.

Subsequently, they set up multiple social media accounts to post pro-ISIS material.

"The three of them actively galvanised support online for ISIS," the ministry said.

"They also donated funds to overseas-based entities for terrorism-related purposes, such as to support the activities of ISIS and JAD," it added.

The three also became strong supporters of terrorist group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesia-based ISIS affiliate that has been banned by Jakarta.

The MHA said the domestic helpers were initially drawn to the violent visuals disseminated on pro-ISIS platforms. These included bomb attacks and beheading videos by the terrorist group, as well as "recycled propaganda" on its past battlefield victories.

It added that they were also influenced by online sermons from radical Indonesian preachers such as Aman Abdurrahman and Usman Haidar bin Seff.

Aman was the de facto leader of JAD, and was sentenced to death in June last year for inciting others to commit terrorist attacks in Indonesia. JAD was responsible for several recent terrorist attacks and foiled plots, including the 2018 Surabaya suicide bombings.

Meanwhile, Usman was a member of regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), and was sentenced to three years' jail in 2004 for harbouring a senior JI member following the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta. In January, he uploaded several videos calling for the release of jailed JI founder and radical preacher, Abu Bakar Bashir.

Network of foreign online contacts

The MHA said the three maids became acquainted with one another around the time that they became radicalised. Anindia and Retno first met at a social gathering in Singapore, while Turmini connected with them on social media.

Over time, they developed a network of pro-militant foreign online contacts. These included online "boyfriends" who shared their ideology.

Anindia and Retno both intended to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Anindia was prepared to become a suicide bomber.

Retno aspired to live among ISIS fighters in Syria and believed that Muslims were duty-bound to travel to conflict zones outside Syria - such as Palestine and Kashmir - to fight against "the enemies of Islam".

Their online contacts also encouraged them to join pro-ISIS groups in southern Philippines, Afghanistan or Africa.

All three women also donated funds to overseas groups for terrorism-related purposes, and Turmini believed that doing so would earn her a place in paradise.

Singapore has identified a total of 19 radicalised foreign domestic workers since 2015. All have been repatriated apart from Anindia, Retno and Turmini, who are still being investigated.

"None were found to have had plans to carry out acts of violence in Singapore, but their radicalisation and association with terrorists overseas had rendered them a security threat to Singapore," the MHA said.

It added that Singapore faces a persistent terrorist threat, fuelled by propaganda from groups like ISIS.

"The fact that all three individuals in the present case were radicalised in 2018, at a time when ISIS' physical territory was already significantly diminished, highlights the enduring appeal of ISIS' violent ideology," it said.

The MHA also said that the Government takes a serious view of any form of support for terrorism here, whether by Singaporeans or foreigners.

It urged the public to exercise caution when viewing radical material online, including sermons by extremist preachers. People should report possible signs of radicalisation in friends, colleagues or family members as soon as possible, the ministry added.

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