Self-radicalised 15yo thought of beheading non-Muslims, dealt with under ISA
A 15-year-old self-radicalised student who thought about carrying out knife attacks to behead non-Muslims in popular tourist areas here and becoming a suicide bomber has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The Secondary 3 student is the youngest person to be dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities.
The teenager is one of two youths that have been dealt with under the ISA, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said on Tuesday. The other is a 16-year-old Secondary 4 student who has been placed under a restriction order, which limits his movements and prevents him from issuing public statements.
The latest cases, which occurred between December 2022 and January 2023, perpetuate the upward trend of young people being detained under the ISA, which the Ministry of Home Affairs had said is concerning. A total of 11 people under the age of 21 have now been dealt with under the Act since 2015, with seven of them detained and four handed restriction orders.
Both teenagers, who had been inspired by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda, cannot be named as they are under 18 years of age.
While the two youths had become self-radicalised separately, they were in contact with Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor, 18, who was detained in December last year after he made plans to carry out attacks here and to declare Coney Island an ISIS wilayat (province). The trio became acquainted through the same extremist social media channel, the ISD said without naming the social media channel.
On Tuesday, ISD said the 15-year-old held the view that “disbelievers” should be killed, and in late 2022 he considered conducting knife attacks at popular tourist spots in Singapore. He also fantasised about exploding himself, and viewed dying as a martyr as the responsibility of all Muslims.
“These thoughts were inspired by ISIS’s beheading and suicide bombing videos, which he frequently viewed online,” said ISD. “At the point of his arrest, the youth was deeply entrenched in his radical views, but had yet to undertake any steps towards actualising his attack ideations.”
The youth had in early 2022 come across podcasts by foreign preacher, Ismail Menk while searching for religious content online. The Zimbabwean Salafi preacher has been banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015 for his segregationist teachings.
The 15-year-old then went onto other social media platforms in search of more religious knowledge and was exposed to violent militant content including ISIS propaganda. He also had discussions with foreign personas, who influenced him with extremist beliefs.
By mid-2022, he was convinced that armed violence was permissible against “disbelievers” which he believed included Shia and Sufi Muslims, and non-Muslims. He also perceived those who “oppressed” Muslims, enforced secular laws or obstructed the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, as “disbelievers” who should be killed.
Desiring to live in an Islamic caliphate governed by Islamic law, he considered travelling to Afghanistan but had not undertaken any preparations at the point of his arrest in November 2022. He also shared pro-ISIS materials on his social media accounts and tried unsuccessfully to purchase an ISIS flag online in the later half of 2022.
The youth shared violent Al-Qaeda and ISIS videos, including beheading videos, with his classmates in an attempt to radicalise them, but none of his classmates expressed interest in these extremist materials, said ISD. He also tried unsuccessfully to convince two foreign online contacts to join him in undertaking armed violence.
As for the 16-year-old, he came on ISD’s radar in November 2020, when he was 14.
ISD’s investigations at the time found that he had an interest in far-right extremist content, including those which were anti-Semitic and supportive of neo-Nazi groups whose ideologies promoted a “race war”. He was also attracted to Islamic end times prophecies after watching YouTube videos, and had come across ISIS jihadi nasheeds (songs) on music streaming platforms.
He was cautioned by ISD to stay away from extremist content online but continued to consume ISIS propaganda and engaged in ISIS-related discussions with other social media users. He then became convinced of ISIS’s legitimacy and supported creating an Islamic caliphate through violence, including through the use of beheadings, shootings, and suicide bombings.
On the online gaming platform Roblox, he joined multiple ISIS-themed servers where the virtual game settings replicated physical ISIS conflict zones, such as those in Syria and Marawi city in southern Philippines.
He regarded himself as an ISIS member in these games, and took a bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to an in-game ‘ISIS leader’.
ISD said the youth was proud of his roles as the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his in-game ISIS faction and said his actions in Roblox, such as shooting and killing ISIS’s “enemies”, were intended to mimic his desire to be an ISIS member in real life.
He uploaded three ISIS propaganda videos onto social media between late 2021 and early 2022 using his Roblox game footage which showed the virtual ISIS factions carrying out attacks. He added ISIS nasheeds and superimposed images of an ISIS flag to create the videos.
ISD said the pair had neither met Irfan in-person nor discussed plans to travel together, but shared their radical beliefs and support for terrorist groups, and tips on how to conceal their radical activities.
Both the youths’ family members had not been aware of their radical views or support for armed violence prior to the ISA orders, said ISD.