Published: 27 January 2021
1. A 16-year-old male Singaporean was detained in December 2020 under the Internal Security Act (ISA). A secondary school student at the time, he was found to have made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore.
2. This youth, a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, is the first detainee to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology. He is also the youngest individual to-date dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities. He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence. He watched the livestreamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019, and read the manifesto of the Christchurch attacker, Brenton Tarrant (Tarrant). He had also watched Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos, and came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam, and that Islam called on its followers to kill non-believers.
3. It was clear from the attack plans and preparations that this youth was influenced by Tarrant’s actions and manifesto. First, he planned to carry out his attacks on 15 March 2021, the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks. He chose Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque as his targets, because they were near his home. He conducted online reconnaissance and research on both mosques to prepare for the attack.
4. Second, like Tarrant, the youth intended to drive between the two attack sites, and therefore devised a plan to procure a vehicle to use during the attack.
5. Third, he bought a tactical vest (see Annex A) from an online platform, and intended to adorn the vest with right-wing extremist symbols, and modify it so that he could strap on his mobile device to livestream the attack, just like Tarrant.
6. Before deciding on the machete as his attack weapon, the youth had explored various other options. His original plan was to use a rifle similar to that used by Tarrant. He managed to find a prospective seller via a private chat platform, but did not follow through with the purchase when he suspected it was a scam. He nevertheless persisted to search for firearms online, and only gave up the idea when he realised that it would be difficult to get his hands on one given Singapore’s strict gun-control laws. He also explored making a Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) bomb, and mimicking Tarrant’s plan of setting fire to the mosques with gasoline. He eventually dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns. To prepare himself for the knifing attack, the youth had watched YouTube videos, and was confident that he would be able to hit the arteries of his targets by randomly slashing at the neck and chest areas. At the point of his arrest by ISD, the youth had found his choice machete on Carousell (see Annex B) but had not purchased it yet.
7. In further imitation of Tarrant, the youth had prepared two documents which he intended to disseminate prior to his attacks.
a) The first was a message to the people of France, which he drafted after the attack against Christians in a church in Nice, France, on 29 Oct 2020. In the message, he called on the French people to “stand up for what is right”, claiming that “we cannot let them [i.e. 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.
b) The second document, which was still unfinished when the youth was arrested, was 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 also 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”.
8. The detailed planning and preparation attests to the youth’s determination to follow through with his attack plan. He admitted during the investigation that he could only foresee two outcomes to his plan – that he is arrested before he is able to carry out the attacks, or he executes the plan and is thereafter killed by the Police.
9. ISD’s investigation to-date indicates that the youth had acted alone. There was also no indication that he had tried to influence anyone with his extreme outlook or involve others in his attack plans. His immediate family and others in his social circles were not aware of his attack plans and the depth of his hatred for Islam.
10. This case demonstrates yet again that extreme ideas can find resonance among and radicalise Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion. It is a threat to all of us and our way of life. We must remain vigilant to signs that someone around us may have become radicalised, so that we can intervene early to avert a tragedy. Anyone with information in this regard should promptly contact the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).
11. The public is also urged to stay alert to suspicious items and individuals and to inform the authorities by calling 999, sending an SMS to 71999 or using the “Report” function in the SGSecure application. Members of the public are also encouraged to familiarise themselves with SGSecure advisories such as “Run, Hide, Tell” and “Press, Tie, Tell”. These advisories provide important information on what to do in the event of a terror attack, and how to render first aid to those around you.
Internal Security Department
27 January 2021