Published: 24 November 2020
1. Since the re-publication of caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad by French magazine Charlie Hebdo on 1 Sep 2020, there has been a spate of terrorist attacks in France, including the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb. There have also been attacks against French/Western interests elsewhere, such as in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Vienna, Austria. In addition, a palpable anti-France climate has developed in several countries, as seen in large protests and calls for boycotts, as well as an uptick in terrorist rhetoric online.
2. In view of the deteriorating security situation, the Home Team has been on heightened alert since early September, and had also stepped up its security activities to pre-empt copycat attacks in Singapore.
ISD’s investigations into 37 individuals
3. As part of the heightened security posture, the Internal Security Department (ISD) has ramped up counter-terrorism investigations into suspicious activity, suspected radicalised individuals and/or persons whose conduct could threaten Singapore’s communal harmony. As at 24 Nov 2020, investigations into 37 individuals have been initiated, some jointly with SPF.
4. These individuals had attracted security attention for suspected radical inclinations, or for making comments which incite violence, or stoke communal unrest. The majority had inter alia, supported the beheading of Samuel Paty, and the subsequent attacks in France and elsewhere, or incited violence against France or French President Emmanuel Macron for the French government’s defence of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. A few had made derogatory remarks against Muslims.
5. While a handful had commented on the same discussion threads on social media, the majority of the cases are not connected to each other. To date, there is no indication that any of these individuals had been planning any attacks or protests in Singapore.
6. Of the 37 individuals, 14 are Singaporeans and 23 are foreigners:
Arrest under ISA
7. One foreigner under investigation is 26-year-old Bangladeshi, Ahmed Faysal (Faysal; see Annex A for his photograph). On 2 Nov 2020, Faysal was arrested under the Internal Security Act for investigations into his terrorism-related activities. While he is not linked to the incidents in France, ISD’s preliminary investigations showed that he was radicalised and harboured the intention to undertake armed violence in support of his religion. Faysal had been working as a construction worker in Singapore since early 2017, and became radicalised in 2018 after imbibing online propaganda on ISIS. He was attracted to ISIS’ goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Syria and wanted to travel there to fight alongside ISIS against the Syrian government. He believed that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so.
8. In mid-2019, Faysal shifted his allegiance to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), another militant group fighting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria. He donated funds to a Syria-based organisation on the understanding that his donations would benefit the HTS’ cause in Syria. Faysal also actively shared propaganda promoting armed violence on social media using accounts created under fictitious names. Apart from ISIS and HTS, Faysal had also expressed support for other terrorist groups including the Al-Qaeda and Somalia-based Al-Shabaab.
9. Faysal believed that Muslims are duty-bound to engage in armed jihad to help fellow Muslims who are oppressed. Apart from Syria, he was also willing to travel to Kashmir to fight against the perceived enemies of Islam. To prepare himself for armed jihad, Faysal watched firearms-related videos online. He even bought foldable knives in Singapore, which he claimed he would use for attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh (see Annex B for images of the knives). Investigations thus far have not surfaced any indication that Faysal intended to carry out any acts of violence in Singapore.
Need for continued vigilance
10. These recent developments in Europe and in Singapore remind us that the threat of terrorism is still alive, notwithstanding the military defeat of ISIS and the dismantling of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The Home Team remains vigilant and will not hesitate to take firm action against any individual who advocates violence.
11. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority have enhanced their security measures and patrols.
12. The community too, plays an important role in ensuring that Singapore remains safe and secure. Family, friends and colleagues are often best placed to notice changes in behaviour that could point to someone being radicalised by extremist ideology. Members of the public who suspect that a person has been radicalised, or is engaging in terrorism-related activities, should promptly call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD).
13. We urge the community to stay alert to suspicious items and individuals, and inform the authorities by calling 999, sending an SMS to 71999 or using the “Report” function in the SGSecure app. 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/p>