Security Brief: Extremism Week of June 21, 2021
Week of Monday, June 21, 2021 | Issue 39
Sophie Provins, Extremism Team
Singapore’s Business District
Date: June 23, 2021
Parties involved: Singapore; Internal Security Department; Right-Wing Extremist Groups; Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL); Al Qaeda; Jemaah Islamiyah
The event: On June 23, 2021, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) released the Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report highlighting developing threats to Singapore’s national security. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals have been spending more time online which has led to cases of online self-radicalization. Although Jihadist terrorism remains the highest security threat to Singapore, for the first time right-wing extremism has been identified as a developing threat in the region. The report concluded that there is no imminent attack in Singapore, although the threat level remains high.
Self-radicalization is likely to lead to acts of lone wolf terrorism. Lone wolf acts are more difficult for law enforcement to predict compared to group activity. This is because group attacks are more likely to have thorough planning and discussions that could be intercepted, whereas a lone wolf attack requires just one person to decide to conduct the attack alone. Therefore, lone wolf attacks are highly likely to lead to attacks of multiple fatalities.
Right-wing extremism has emerged as a prominent threat over the past year, with nations such as the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) naming it the fastest growing threat. This global presence of right-wing ideology is highly likely to lead to an increase in online activity revolving around the ideology. This in turn is likely to lead to more individuals becoming radicalized by online right-wing content.
ISIL already has an established presence in Singapore. In early June, a woman was detained for increasing her online communications with members of the groups overseas, and increasingly radical behavior. Despite losing its final territory in March 2019, the group has already shown signs of resurgence and therefore cannot be discounted. It is highly likely that ISIL members will continue to recruit and radicalize individuals from Singapore by utilizing social media and those who already follow ISIL’s ideology to influence others.
As Al Qaeda continues to exploit high-risk areas, it continues to threaten security within Singapore. The impending withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in September is highly likely to lead to an increase in the group’s activities, which may include a renewed focus on recruiting and expanding their influence within Singapore.
Jemaah Islamiyah is likely to continue to pose a security threat to Singapore, as they still have cells in the country. They have connections with other Jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda who provided the safe houses to enable to them orchestrate attacks on different embassies, suggesting they are still capable of carrying out attacks. The ISD revealed that they had detected that the group is committed to establishing a Caliphate in Indonesia, which may expand to Singapore.
Although Singapore has increased its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, it is probable that another outbreak of the virus will lead to an increase in online radicalization throughout Singapore. Self-radicalization toward extremist ideologies has been an increasing global threat likely due to the social isolation felt during quarantines and lockdowns. The spread of conspiracy theories related to the global pandemic has also highly likely contributed toward the increase in self-radicalization. With new variants of COVID-19 developing, it is possible that another lockdown could happen. This would therefore increase the risk of an attack.
As both Jihadist and right-wing extremists continue to pose a threat to Singapore’s national security, there is likely to be a case of cumulative extremism. This is likely to occur when one extremist group commits an attack in order to compete with a different ideological extremist group. If attacks conducted by one ideology increase, it may inspire more attacks from other extremist ideologies to increase simultaneously.
Date: June 24, 2021
Parties involved: Singapore; Ministry of Communications and Information; Singapore Armed Forces; Amirull Ali; Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar; Adnan M. El Halabi
The event: On June 24, 2021, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information banned Menyingkap Rahsia Tentera Elit Briged Izzuddin Al-Qassam: Generasi Muda Perindu Syahid, which translates into English as Uncovering The Secrets Of The Izz Ad-Din Al Qassam Brigades Elite Force: The Young Generation Of Seekers Of Martyrdom by Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar and Adnan M. El Halabi. The book came to the attention of the Ministry of Communications and Information as investigations revealed that it contributed to the self-radicalization of Amirull Ali, who purchased the book in 2015. He was a national serviceman in the Singapore Armed Forces when he was arrested in February 2021 and was detained under the Internal Security Act in March. Ali had planned to carry out a fatal attack on Jews at the Maghain Aboth Synagogue,
It is highly likely that the book has already contributed to the radicalization of other individuals in Singapore. However, it is unlikely that banning a book will completely remove it from circulation. This could have the unintended consequence of contributing to more individuals seeking to find the book. As a result, vulnerable individuals could gain contact with extremists who could contribute to enhancing their radicalization and introduce them to a network of other extremists.
The banning of the book led to Minister for Communications and Information and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo warning citizens in Singapore about the threat of child extremism. Child extremism is likely to continue to pose a security threat to Singapore.
It is likely that Ali was able to influence others while in Singapore’s Armed Forces. In Singapore, there is a requirement for all individuals to participate in the armed forces as national servicemen. This could be highly concerning, as servicemen are trained in firearms and warfare tactics. Therefore, their training could be an important contribution to extremist groups and pose likely targets for recruitment.
It is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to Ali’s self-radicalization process, which could have increased the effectiveness of the book in the radicalization of Singaporeans. Singapore has been very effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as a result of strict lockdowns and preventing the opportunity for the virus to spread.
 Singaporean housewife detained for supporting ISIS, Tribune India, June 2021, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/singaporean-housewife-detained-for-supporting-isis-265881