(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Two Singaporeans have been detained under the Internal Security Act for intending to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Thursday.
In a press release, the ministry said that the first case involved 36-year-old licensed money changer Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen, who had been a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim. Haja was arrested in May this year.
“Zahran has been identified by the Sri Lankan authorities as the mastermind and one of the suicide bombers involved in the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019 which killed more than 250 people and injured 500 others,” said MHA.
Since 2011, Haja had been listening to Zahran’s online lectures and regularly contacted him for religious guidance. He also made three trips to Sri Lanka between May 2015 and October 2016 to visit the preacher, and donated funds to Zahran and his group, the National Thowheed Jamaath.
Investigations did not surface any indication that Haja was involved in or had prior knowledge of the Apr 21 attacks in Sri Lanka, the ministry added.
Haja developed an interest in IS in 2013, when he came across news of the terrorist group online. MHA said he supported IS’ so-called caliphate and its violent cause, and searched online for video clips of IS-linked atrocities and terror attacks, including videos of its beheadings and recordings of the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
“Haja harboured a desire to undertake armed jihad in Syria,” said MHA.
From 2015, he conducted extensive research online in relation to his plan to migrate to Syria to join IS, but eventually decided against travelling there for fear of being killed or injured. However, his support for IS continued.
The second case involved Suderman Samikin, a 47-year-old former delivery assistant, who was arrested in July.
MHA said Suderman was radicalised after encountering lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an “Al-Qaeda ideologue” who is now dead, and IS propaganda while searching online in 2013 for information on the Syrian conflict.
“He soon bought into ISIS’s violent ideology and by February 2014, was prepared to take up arms to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, in the belief that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so,” the ministry said.
Suderman joined a pro-IS Facebook group, reportedly created by a Syria-based IS fighter, in April 2014. He “actively sought advice” on how to join IS and was directed to online sources where he learned about travel routes to Syria, according to MHA.
He also became acquainted with foreign pro-IS elements through the Facebook group and was prepared to help when two of them wanted to visit Singapore to purchase tactical apparel for their participation in the armed conflict in Syria. However, the duo’s visit did not materialise.
Suderman also offered one of the two pro-IS contacts financial assistance to undertake armed violence in Syria. In turn, the duo invited Suderman to join an overseas pro-IS group in which they were involved.
MHA stated that Suderman was in prison from July 2014 to Jun 2019 for drug consumption, There, he continued to harbour the intention to join IS. He was arrested upon his release.
(Sources: Government of Singapore)