Two Singaporeans have been detained under the Internal Security Act for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.
In a press release on Feb. 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) confirmed that Mohamed Kazali bin Salleh (Kazali) and Hazim Syahmi bin Mahfoot (Hazim) were detained in January 2019.
Kazali is a 48-year-old businessman who has been working in Johor Bahru over the past decade.
He relocated to Malaysia with his family when he was a kid.
Sometime in 2009, Kazali met with another Malaysian, Wan Mohd Aquil bin Wan Zainal Abidin @ Akel Zainal (Akel).
Akel is believed to be the most senior Malaysian ISIS militant fighting in Syria.
He has been identified by Malaysian authorities as responsible for two plots to attack Malaysian police stations and places of worship.
Luckily, this was averted when Malaysian ISIS supporters were arrested in November 2018.
Good friends with an ISIS militant
Kazali was influenced by Akel's radical views and conspiracy theories, and became convinced that he had a duty to travel to Syria and fight the so-called oppressors of Muslims.
Kazali even provided financial assistance for Akel to travel to Syria in 2013.
They kept in touch while Akel was in Syria. Kazali gave him more material assistance, and in return Akel updated him on his battlefield exploits.
Kazali became increasingly radicalised over time. He took a bai'ah or a pledge of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, which he conveyed to Akel over social media.
Attempted to influence others to travel to Syria
He agreed to join Akel in Syria on several occasions, but backed out because he did not want to leave behind his life in Malaysia.
Kazali was ordered by Akel to attack a Freemasons centre in Johor Bahru in December 2018, but did not do it because he was scared of capture by the authorities.
But this didn't mean that he stopped his radical activities.
Kazali shared news of Akel's activities on social media to "inspire" others to also travel to Syria, and was prepared to help anyone who wanted to do so.
Meanwhile, Hazim, a 28-year-old freelance car exporter based in Singapore, met Kazali in Singapore in May 2018.
Their business dealings soon turned into a personal friendship, and Hazim became influenced by Kazali's radical ideas.
Hazim became convinced that he had to undertake armed violence against perceived enemies of Islam, specifically non-Muslims.
He believed that all Muslims had a duty to travel to conflict zones like Myanmar, Syria and Palestine to fight non-Muslims.
He also took the bai'ah to remain loyal and obedient to Kazali, even if this involved carrying out attacks and killing others.
Malaysia and Singapore cooperate
Singapore's Internal Security Department (ISD) and the Malaysian Special Branch (MSB) cooperated closely on investigations into Kazali's terrorism-related activities, and his links with Akel.
Kazali was arrested in Malaysia by MSB officers in December 2018.
He was deported to Singapore and handed over to the ISD on Jan. 7, where he was arrested and issued with an Order of Detention (OD) under the ISA.
Hazim was in turn arrested in Singapore, and subsequently issued with an OD in January 2019.
"These cases highlight the dangers of radicalisation of Singaporeans overseas, and the potential impact within Singapore. The threat of extremism is one which does not respect national borders."
Top image adapted from Aseanopol and ISD.
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