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Teen who planned terror attack ‘was prepared to die’

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Rise of right-wing extremism creeping into Singapore a worrying development, says Shanmugam

The rise of right-wing extremism creeping into Singapore is a worrying development, and is part of a larger wave sweeping across the world, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

He was commenting on the case of a 16-year-old Singaporean student who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month for plotting to attack Muslims at two mosques here on the second anniversary of a terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity was influenced by Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant, and is the first ISA detainee to have been inspired by far-right extremist ideology.

"It was quite chilling," Mr Shanmugam told reporters at the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, noting that the youth had planned the attack expecting that he would be killed by the police while executing his plans. "And he was prepared to die."

"Violent impulses, I've said this many times, are not restricted to any particular racial group or religious group. It can occur amongst anyone. It's really a question of being exposed to hate speech and then being influenced by it."

He said Singapore's strategy has been to engage with community and religious organisations on maintaining religious and racial harmony, as well as use the ISA to pick up radicalised individuals before they can cause any harm.

If the attack had succeeded, it would likely have incited fear and conflict between different racial and religious groups in Singapore, Mr Shanmugam noted.


Making the point that such extremism is not restricted to one particular group, he pointed to terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam, as well as right-wing extremists with hateful manifestos.

"Tarrant inspired this boy whom we picked up. It is sad, I would say, that it's come to this, the world has come to this. And it's also creeping into Singapore," said Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam also flagged another worrying trend - that seven people under the age of 20 have been picked up under the ISA since 2015, after getting radicalised through the Internet. Four have been detained, while three were served with restriction orders.

To weed out more of such cases, he said the Internal Security Department and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth are engaging religious organisations to be more vigilant. Advisories have also been issued to these groups to strengthen their crisis preparedness.

"Our population has confidence that the Government is in the middle, and we protect you, regardless of who you are, whether you are Muslim or Christian," he said.