Singapore holds two men under ISA, including one who made contact with Sri Lanka bombing mastermind

A shoe of a victim is seen in front of the St Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. — Reuters pic
A shoe of a victim is seen in front of the St Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE — Two individuals have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their involvement in terrorism-related conduct, including a man who had been regularly contacting the mastermind behind the Sri Lanka Easter bomb attacks in April.

Investigations showed that the individual, Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen — a 36-year-old licensed money-changer — was not involved in or had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks that killed more than 250 people on April 21, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

However, he was radicalised and harboured the intention to travel to Syria to join the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), it added.

Haja was detained in May, while another Singaporean Suderman Samikin — a 47-year-old former delivery assistant — was detained in July.

MHA said that Haja was a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim, who has been identified by Sri Lankan authorities as the mastermind and one of the suicide bombers in the Easter Day attacks that targeted high-end hotels and churches.

Since 2011, Haja had listened to Zahran’s online religious lectures and “regularly contacted him for religious guidance,” the ministry said.

“Between May 2015 and October 2016, Haja made three trips to Sri Lanka to visit Zahran,” it added.

Haja also donated money to Zahran and his group, the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ), which was involved in the planning of the Easter bombings.

Zahran had also set up another group called Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem fi Seylani, which also played a role in the attacks. Sri Lankan authorities have since banned those groups.

MHA said that Haja was drawn to Isis when he came across news about the terrorist group online in 2013. He embraced Isis’ mission to set up an Islamic caliphate and its violent cause to achieve that goal.

“He also searched online for video clips of Isis-linked atrocities and terrorist attacks, including Isis’ beheading videos, and recordings of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France in November 2015,” MHA said.

His desire to undertake armed jihad in Syria was thus formed. From 2015, he did extensive online research in an attempt to emigrate to Syria to join Isis, but eventually decided against travelling there because he feared he would be killed or injured there, MHA added.

Meantime, he continued to support the terrorist group even up to the point of his arrest in May this year.

Threat of online radicalisation

The second detainee, Suderman, became radicalised after listening to lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki — a radical preacher and one of the top honchos of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda who died in 2011. He also bought into Isis' propaganda while searching online for information on the Syrian conflict in 2013.

Like Haja, Suderman also embraced Isis’ ideology and by February 2014, he wanted to fight for the terrorist group in Syria, believing that he would die as a martyr.

In April 2014, Suderman joined a pro-Isis Facebook group that was reportedly created by an Isis fighter based in Syria, MHA said.

The ministry added: “He actively sought advice on how to join Isis and was directed to online sources where he learnt about travel routes to Syria.”

He also became acquainted with “foreign pro-Isis elements” through the Facebook group and was prepared to help when two of the group members wanted to visit Singapore to buy tactical apparel for their participation in the armed conflict in Syria, MHA said.

The two men’s plan to come to Singapore, however, did not materialise.

Suderman offered one of the men financial assistance to fight in Syria, and in return, they invited him to join an an overseas pro-Isis group in which they were involved.

But Suderman ended up in Jail from July 2014 to June 2019 for drug consumption, MHA said. Still, he harboured the intention to join Isis while he was in prison and was arrested by the ISA upon his release.

The announcement of these latest detentions came a month after MHA disclosed that a Singaporean was detained and two others were placed under restriction orders for extremism. — TODAY

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