Two radicalised Singaporeans detained under ISA for involvement in terrorism-related activities

·Editorial Team
FILE PHOTO: Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: Getty Images

Two radicalised Singaporeans were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in January for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.

Mohamed Kazali Salleh was arrested in Malaysia by Malaysia Special Branch officers in December last year, deported to Singapore and handed over to the Internal Security Department (ISD) on 7 January, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a media release on Friday (15 February). His associate, Hazim Syahmi Mahfoot, was arrested in Singapore in January.

Both were subsequently issued with the Order of Detention under the ISA.

Close associate of ISIS militant

Kazali, a 48-year-old business man based in Malaysia, is a close associate of Syria-based ISIS militant Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin, otherwise known as Akel Zainal.

Akel is believed to be the most 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. He is also reported to have instructed two Malaysian ISIS supporters to mount attacks against places of worship and police stations in Malaysia in early 2019. The plots were foiled when the two supporters were arrested in November last year.

Kazali relocated to Malaysia with his family when he was a young child, and has been working in Johor Bahru over the past decade.

He first met Akel in 2009 and became influenced by his radical views and conspiracy theories. He was convinced by Akel’s belief that Muslims are duty-bound to travel to Syria to fight against those who oppress Muslims.

Financial assistance for militant

When Akel decided to go to Syria to fight in late 2013, Kazali had provided him with financial assistance for his trip. This continued when Akel was in Syria, and in turn, Akel 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.

As Kazali became increasingly radicalised, he saw ISIS fighters as “righteous” individuals defending Muslims in Syria and around 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.

Kazali also agreed to join Akel in Syria when invited by the latter to do so on several occasions. But he did not act on it as he was not ready to leave his life in Malaysia behind.

Instead, Kazali 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.

In December 2018, Kazali received instructions from Akel to carry out an attack against a Freemasons centre in Johor Bahru, but did not follow through as he was afraid to be caught by the authorities.

Convinced that armed violence is needed

Hazim, a 28-year-old freelance car exporter based in Singapore, met Kazali in May last year in Singapore. They had business dealings, and quickly developed a personal friendship.

Hazim was influenced by Kazali’s radical outlook, and was convinced that he should undertake armed violence against the perceived enemies of his religion, specifically non-Muslims. He believed that all Muslims are duty-bound to travel to conflict zones such as Palestine, Syria and Myanmar to fight non-Muslims there. He took a bai’ah to remain loyal and obedient to Kazali, even if it involved carrying out attacks and killing others.

The ISD and MSB cooperated closely on investigations into Kazali’s terrorism-related activities and his links with Akel, leading to his subsequent arrest.

“These cases highlight the dangers of radicalisation of Singaporeans overseas and the potential impact within Singapore,” said the MHA. “The threat of extremism is one which does not respect national borders.”

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