Singapore: Two men, influenced by radical ideas of ISIS detained under Internal Security Act

Believers of terrorism (Representational picture) Pixabay

Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday that two men have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their suspected involvement in terrorism-related activities.

In a news release, the ministry stated that both the alleged accused Mohamed Kazali Salleh and Hazim Syahmi Mahfoot were detained in January 2019.

The 48-year-old Kazil, who was a businessman in Malaysia, is suspected to have a close connection to the Syria-based Islamic State militant Malaysian Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin @ Akel Zainal.

As per the news released, MHA believes that Akel is a senior Malaysian ISIS fighter in Syria and was identified by the Malaysian authorities to be responsible for two recent ISIS-linked attack plots in Malaysia."

While describing the background of the Kazali, the ministry said that the businessman first met Akel in 2009 and when he came across to Akel's views and conspiracy theories, Kazali became influenced and was convinced by Akel's belief that it is a duty of a Muslim to travel to Syria to fight against those who oppress Muslims.

In 2013, Akel decided to go to Syria and Kazali had provided him with financial assistance for his travel. But the assistance continued when "Akel was in Syria, and in turn, Akel had kept him updated on his exploits on the battlefield. Kazali believed that the help he gave to Akel would guarantee him a place in paradise should Akel achieve martyrdom in Syria."

MHA added that the 'As Kazali became increasingly radicalised over time," he started to see the fighters from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS as 'righteous' individuals, who were defending Muslims in all over the world.

"At Akel's urging, he took a bai'ah (pledge of allegiance) to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which was conveyed to Akel via social media. He also agreed to join Akel in Syria when invited by the latter to do so on several occasions; he did not, however, act on it as he was not ready to leave his life in Malaysia behind. Instead, he took to sharing news of Akel's terrorism-related activities in Syria on social media to inspire others to travel to Syria. He was prepared to facilitate the travel of any individual who wanted to undertake armed violence in Syria through Akel."

The ministry found that last year in December, Kazali was given orders to carry out an attack against a Freemason's centre in Malaysia's Johor Bahru. But, he was so afraid of the idea of being caught that he failed to follow the order.

The other suspect, a Singapore based 28-year-old freelance car exporter, Hazim met Kazali in May 2018. The meeting was first business related but slowly both of them became close friends.

"Hazim was influenced by Kazali's radical outlook. Hazim looked up to Kazali and was convinced by Kazali that he should undertake armed violence against the perceived enemies of his religion, specifically non-Muslims," said MHA.

It should be also noted that, as per the ministry, the 28-year-old suspect also started believing that all the Muslims should travel to conflict zones such as Palestine, Syria and Myanmar so that they can fight against non-Muslims. "He took a bai'ah to remain loyal and obedient to Kazali, even if it involved carrying out attacks and killing others," the ministry said.

The Internal Security Department (ISD) of Singapore and the Malaysian Special Branch cooperated to investigate Kazali's terrorism-related activities and his close association with Akel.

In December 2018, Kazali was arrested in Malaysia by MSB officers and deported to Singapore and handed over to ISD on January 7, this year, while Hazim arrested in Singapore and subsequently issued with an OD last month.

At the end of the news release, the ministry stated "These cases highlight the dangers of radicalisation of Singaporeans overseas and the potential impact within Singapore. The threat of extremism is one which does not respect national borders."

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