Singaporean, 16, planned copycat attacks on two mosques here
Student detained under ISA before he could carry out attack inspired by man behind Christchurch massacre
While his peers were focusing on studies or video games, a 16-year-old Singaporean boy was planning bloody murder.
Influenced by Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist who slaughtered 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019, the secondary school student had planned copycat attacks here on March 15, the second anniversary of the Christchurch massacre.
His original weapon of choice was an assault rifle similar to the one used by Tarrant, but when he realised the difficulty of acquiring a gun in Singapore, he settled on a machete from online platform Carousell.
Before he could buy the machete, the youth was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month after the authorities uncovered his plans.
The Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity is the first detainee to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology and the youngest detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said yesterday.
"He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence," said ISD, adding that it was clear from the attack plans and preparations that he was influenced by Tarrant's actions and manifesto.
He had also watched Tarrant's livestream of his attack, as well as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos that made him wrongly conclude that ISIS represented Islam and Islam called on its followers to kill non-believers.
He also bought a tactical jacket and planned to fit a mobile device so he could livestream his attack like Tarrant.
ISD said his two targets were Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands because they were near his home. Like Tarrant, he had planned to drive from one mosque to the other despite being too young to have a driving licence.
"The detailed planning and preparation attests to the youth's determination to follow through with his attack plan," ISD added.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters yesterday that if such an attack had succeeded, it was likely to incite fear and conflict between the country's different racial groups and religions.
He said it was "quite chilling" to hear the boy tell ISD officers that "he was prepared to die".
The minister also said the teen will be rehabilitated instead of been treated as a criminal in the hope that "after a number of years, he can be released and carry on with his life".
ISD said its investigation to date indicates the youth had acted alone and his immediate family and those in his social circle were not aware of his attack plans and hatred of Islam.
Ms Kimberly Chew, a psychologist at Annabelle Psychology, said this suggests the youth was "relying solely on his own interpretation of certain viewpoints that he gathered online and then acting on it".
Ms Chew, who works closely with children and adolescents, said other factors such as low self-esteem, the experience of a traumatic event or a personality disorder can push a young person towards extremist views.
"Young people who often find themselves struggling with self-identity are easily influenced by information they get online. It becomes problematic when they are not able to decipher inaccurate information and determine what is fact," she told The New Paper.
Ms Chew said some red flags include the child suddenly refusing to engage with anyone different from them and steering clear of peers from a different race or religion. Sudden social withdrawal, changes in emotional state and a heightened state of secrecy are other potential behaviours to be wary of.
ISD said this case demonstrates that extreme ideas can find resonance among, and radicalise, Singaporeans regardless of race or religion.
It said: "It is a threat to all of us and our way of life. We must remain vigilant to signs that someone around us may have become radicalised, so that we can intervene early to avert a tragedy."