Published: 04 December 2021
The full report is available for download (PDF, 2 MB). An executive summary is appended below.
1. On 8 December 2001, ISD launched a security operation against the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network in Singapore. This operation effectively crippled the Singapore JI and thwarted multiple plots by the group to carry out terror attacks in the country. Beyond Singapore, ISD’s operation also exposed and sounded the alarm on JI’s clandestine networks across Southeast Asia, as well as its connections to Al Qaeda (AQ), which was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
2. Twenty years on, the JI and its well-developed attack plots remain Singapore’s closest shave with transnational Islamist terrorism to date. Singapore JI operatives, many of whom received training from terrorists in Afghanistan and/or the southern Philippines, had the skills and technical know-how to conduct devastating attacks here. Some had also received instructions and support from foreign AQ operatives. Had the group succeeded in their plans, there would have been catastrophic consequences, both in terms of physical loss of lives and damage to Singapore’s communal harmony and social fabric.
3. ISD’s operations against the JI did not cease with the two key phases of local arrests in 2001 and 2002. ISD continued to work tirelessly behind the scenes over the next decade, hunting down Singapore JI fugitives who had fled overseas. At the same time, together with its community partners, ISD spearheaded a holistic rehabilitation approach for the JI detainees and their family members, comprising religious, psychological and social rehabilitation, to ease their reintegration into Singapore society.
4. The terrorism landscape has evolved significantly since the operation against the JI in 2001. Most notably, in the mid-2000s, there was an uptick in cases of self-radicalised individuals detected in Singapore. These individuals were not part of any organised terrorist networks, but were influenced by extremist materials and terrorist propaganda online. The threat was further heightened with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014, amidst the Syrian conflict. Adapting to the new operating terrain, ISD continues to expand and strengthen its capabilities to keep the threat at bay.
5. In combating the threat posed by the JI and other forms of transnational terrorism, ISD works in close partnership with the community and international counterparts. The amorphous, and often clandestine, nature of the threat necessitates Singapore’s whole-of-society approach to counter-terrorism – indeed, ISD’s first specific lead on the JI came from a vigilant member of public. Complementing this approach are the strong partnerships that ISD has forged with foreign security agencies over the years. Intelligence exchanges and operational cooperation with foreign counterparts have been critical towards the disruption of many terror attacks and plots in the region.
6. While the Singapore JI has been effectively dismantled by ISD, the regional JI network is still active. The group has been resilient and adaptable to a more hostile security environment, undertaking measures to evade detection and pursuing outreach efforts to gather more recruits while rebuilding its military capabilities. Given its ambition of establishing a Daulah Islamiyah (Islamic state) in Southeast Asia through the use of violence, JI will continue to present a serious long-term security threat to Singapore. In this regard, ISD continues to keep a close watch on developments that could heighten the threat posed by JI and other terrorist groups.