Press Releases

Updates on Cases Under the Internal Security Act

Published: 01 February 2023

Detention of Singaporean Youth

1.   Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohamad Nor (Irfan), an 18-year-old post-secondary student, was detained in December 2022 under the Internal Security Act (ISA).  Irfan was self-radicalised by online propaganda by the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and had made plans and preparations to undertake armed violence in Singapore and overseas, in support of ISIS.

Self-Radicalisation Process

2.   Irfan started down the path of radicalisation in 2020 after he came across YouTube videos by foreign extremist preacher Zakir Naik (Naik).[1]   After watching many of Naik’s videos available online, Irfan went on to watch YouTube videos of other foreign extremist preachers such as Ahmed Deedat.[2]   He also participated in discussions on social media platforms, where he was exposed to ISIS propaganda.  Over time, Irfan developed an interest in ISIS and admiration for the mujahideen (fighters) featured in jihadist videos.  By late 2021, he started taking photos of himself in a ski mask, with his index finger raised to represent tawhid,[3]  to mimic the ISIS fighters he had seen online (see Annex A).     

Establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Singapore

3.   From late 2021, Irfan also developed a desire to live in an Islamic caliphate governed by sharia (Islamic law).  To this end, he wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore, and recruit Muslims to join the caliphate.  On 9 August 2022, Irfan planted a self-made flag in Coney Island[4], which he designed based on the flag of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist organisation in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.[5] Irfan claimed that the act symbolised the start of his own caliphate on Singapore’s National Day.  He uploaded pictures of the flag on his social media account on the same day to encourage likeminded individuals to join his caliphate which he named the “Islamic State of Singhafura” (see Annex B).

Support for ISIS and Intention to Travel Overseas for Armed Violence

4.   By October 2022, Irfan was convinced of ISIS’s legitimacy, having consumed extensive ISIS propaganda online.  He then decided to travel to Nigeria to undertake armed violence with the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP),[6] as he believed that ISWAP was ISIS’s strongest affiliate.  He said that he was prepared to die fighting on the battlefield, in the belief that he would achieve martyrdom.  He also saw Iraq, Syria or Marawi in southern Philippines as alternative destinations for armed violence if he was unable to join ISWAP. He made online searches for flights from Singapore to these locations, and planned to pursue his travel plans to the conflict zones after he had saved up sufficient funds.

5.   In the meantime, Irfan planned to demonstrate his support for ISIS by filming a video of himself taking the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to then-ISIS leader, Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.  He understood the bai’ah to mean that he would have to follow any instructions from ISIS including conducting attacks in Singapore, even if it meant being killed in the process.  He planned to film his bai’ah at Coney Island on the weekend of 12-13 November 2022, wearing his National Cadet Corps (NCC) uniform[7] and a self-made ISIS flag and headband, and carrying a toy rifle (see Annex C), to mimic ISIS fighters he had seen in online ISIS propaganda.  He also intended to declare Coney Island an ISIS wilayat (province), in the hope that it would be recognised by ISIS as an official ISIS affiliate.

6.   Irfan believed that it was his religious obligation to spread ISIS’s radical ideology.  He planned to upload his video to various social media platforms, to galvanise support for ISIS, and to recruit an ISIS army of between 100 and 500 fighters, to assist him in conducting attacks in Singapore.

Conducting Attacks in Singapore

7.   Irfan formulated at least three attack plans against targets in Singapore, which he intended to execute with the support of his ISIS army.  He had no timeline for these attacks at the point of his arrest.  First, he planned to stab and kill “disbelievers” by ambushing them in dark alleys, and taking their personal belongings as war spoils for his ISIS army.  In his view, “disbelievers” included non-Muslims, Shia Muslims and Sufi Muslims.  In preparation for the attack, he purchased a knife from a convenience store in August 2022 (see Annex D).  He had not identified a location to conduct the attack at the point of his arrest.

8.   Second, Irfan also had aspirational plans to carry out a mass-casualty attack against the Amoy Quee Camp, where the NCC Headquarters is located.  He was familiar with the camp from his time as an NCC cadet in secondary school.  Inspired by ISIS car bomb videos he had watched online, Irfan wanted to recruit a suicide bomber who would mount a suicide car bombing at the gate of Amoy Quee Camp.  Thereafter, Irfan intended to lead his ISIS army to attack the remaining guards at the gate using simple weapons like axes and knives, and steal the firearms from the guardhouse in the camp.

9.   Third, Irfan considered a bomb attack on Keramat Habib Noh at Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque, as he believed that the gravesite, which was decorated and not at ground level, was “un-Islamic”.  He downloaded a C4 bomb-making manual online, intending to construct a homemade explosive to flatten the grave (see Annex E).  At the time of his arrest by ISD, Irfan’s attack plans against Amoy Quee Camp and Keramat Habib Noh had not progressed beyond the ideation stage.

ISD’s Investigation To-date

10.   ISD’s investigation to-date indicates that Irfan acted alone.  There is no indication that he was successful in recruiting or radicalising others.  His family members were not aware of his attack plans or intention to undertake armed violence overseas. 

11.   ISD will take action against any individual in Singapore who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence, or where the violence takes place.  In Irfan’s case, he was deeply radicalised to the extent of being prepared to undertake armed violence both in Singapore and overseas, and to kill and die for ISIS’s cause.  He was arrested by ISD a few days before he would have filmed his bai’ah to ISIS and declared Coney Island an ISIS wilayat.  Our assessment was that he had become an imminent security threat, and he was detained under the ISA.

12.   Irfan’s case highlights the continuing appeal of ISIS’s violent ideology, sustained through its online propaganda efforts and network of global affiliates.

13.   The case also underscores the trend of youth radicalisation seen in recent years, and the threat of lone-actor attacks against soft targets, using simple, easily accessible weapons.  In the last two years, ISD has detained three self-radicalised youths who had planned to carry out attacks in Singapore.[8]    

14.   The terrorism threat to Singapore continues. Public are asked to remain vigilant to signs that someone around them may have become radicalised, so that we can intervene early to avert a tragedy.  Possible signs of radicalisation include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a)   frequently surfing radical websites;

(b)   posting/sharing extremist views on social media platforms, such as expressing support/admiration for terrorists/terrorist groups as well as the use of violence;

(c)   sharing their extremist views with friends and relatives;

(d)   making remarks that promote ill-will or hatred towards people of other races or religions;

(e)   expressing intent to participate in acts of violence overseas or in Singapore; and/or

(f)   inciting others to participate in acts of violence.

15.   Anyone who knows or suspects that a person has been radicalised should promptly contact the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).

Release from Detention

16.   Singaporean Imran bin Mahmood (Imran; age 44), was released from detention and placed on a Restriction Order (RO) in January 2023.  He had been detained under the ISA in January 2019 for harbouring the intentions to travel to Syria to take up arms and fight alongside ISIS.

Internal Security Department

[1] Naik, an Islamic preacher from India, has been barred from entering Singapore since 2014 for his extremist and segregationist teachings.  For example, he has said that Muslims should not vote for non-Muslims (over Muslims) in elections.  He has also said that Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as protectors or friends; otherwise, they would become Jews or Christians.

[2] Ahmed Deedat (deceased) is Naik’s mentor.  A South African preacher of Indian descent, he was banned from entering Singapore in 1982 after making inflammatory speeches here, which, among others, incited local Muslims to be more militant against other religious communities.

[3] The tawhid sign, represented by a single raised index finger, symbolises the Islamic theological concept of the oneness of God.  Terrorist groups like ISIS have appropriated this hand sign as a symbol of support for their group.

[4] Irfan picked Coney Island as he was familiar with the location, having cycled there previously.  He felt that its accessible location made it viable for his caliphate.

[5] Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (Organisation for the Liberation of the Levant) is an Islamist militant group involved in the Syrian civil war.  It was formed in January 2017 from a merger of various groups, including Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (previously known as the al-Nusra Front).

[6] ISWAP, established in March 2015, is a splinter faction of the Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram.  It is currently the dominant Islamist terrorist group in Nigeria, with strongholds in northeastern Nigeria and the greater Lake Chad region.  It has carried out numerous attacks, targeting mainly the police, military and Christian communities.  It is one of the most active ISIS affiliates globally, with reportedly 4,000 – 5,000 fighters.

[7] Irfan was an NCC cadet when he was in secondary school.

[8] Apart from Irfan, the other two cases included: (i) a secondary school student, then aged 16, who was detained under the ISA in December 2020.  He was inspired by far-right extremist ideology and had made detailed plans and preparations to attack Muslims at two mosques in Singapore using a machete; and (ii) Amirull bin Ali, then-aged 20, who was detained under the ISA in March 2021.  Angered by the Israel-Palestine conflict, he had made detailed plans and preparations to conduct knife attacks against Jews at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in Singapore.

Annex - Detention of Singaporean Youth [Photos] (PDF, 759KB)