Action has been issued against two self-radicalized teenage boys in Singapore after being arrested for terrorism-related activities, according to a press statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs released recently.
One of them was a 15-year-old male in Secondary 3 who was arrested last November.
He was issued an Order of Detention (OD) under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the youngest individual to be held under the ISA.
According to investigations by the ISD, the youngster, was a victim of terrorist propaganda online who showed empathy towards terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. He also allegedly considered attacks in Singapore while supposedly “harbouring the desire to establish an Islamic caliphate through violent means”.
The other individual is a 16-year-old male who was issued a Restriction Order (RO) and was also allegedly radicalized by online ISIS propaganda and apparently believed in the use of armed violence to establish an Islamic caliphate.
Teen considered being a suicide bomber
According to the statement, the 15-year-old had considered knife attacks to behead non-Muslims in tourist spots in Singapore.
The statement said he had also thought about being a suicide bomber and “fantasized about exploding himself.”
He apparently admitted that he was inspired by ISIS’ beheading and suicide bombing videos.
However, the release also stated that while he was deeply entrenched in his radical views at the time of his arrest, he had yet to undertake any steps towards actualizing an attack.
Other influences and public figures
During investigations, it was also found out that the two boys were online contacts of another teen boy, Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohamad Nor who was also detained in December 2022.
The three boys were self-radicalized separately but Irfan and the two youths subsequently became acquainted through the same extremist social media channel.
They had not met physically nor discussed plans to travel together.
Another figure that keeps popping up with extremist propaganda is preacher Ismail Menk. He is a Salafi preacher from Zimbabwe and has been banned from preaching in Singapore because of his segregationist teachings, which promote religious disharmony.
Online propaganda – it’s not what you think
Sure there are the standard YouTube videos that promote extremist content, whether it’s sermons, conspiracy theories or even jihadi nasheeds (songs) but when it comes to online content, it can also come in the form of video games that most kids have access to.
The investigations found that the 16-year-old youth also found his “community” on the online gaming platform Roblox. He had joined servers where the virtual settings replicated actual conflict zones like the ones in Syria and Marawi in the Phillippines.
He had also created and uploaded ISIS propaganda videos onto social media between himself. The videos were of Roblox game footage which showed the virtual ISIS factions conducting attacks, with jihadi ISIS nasheeds and superimposed images of an ISIS flag to create more likeness to real life.
According to ISD, the youth was proud of his roles as the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his in-game ISIS faction. He said his actions in support of ISIS in Roblox, such as shooting and killing ISIS’s “enemies”, were intended to mimic his desire to be an ISIS member in real life.
The dangers of online radicalization
The press statement also warned against the dangers of online radicalization and said the extremist and terrorist groups are known to target youths for radicalization and recruitment online.
It said that these youths may be “more impressionable and easily influenced in their search for a sense of identity, purpose and belonging”.
“Terrorist groups have also misused online gaming platforms, for example, by disseminating their ideological beliefs through video games, using in-game communication features to recruit vulnerable gamers, and appropriating gaming culture to increase their reach to younger target audiences.”
Most of the cases related to terrorist-related issues involving youths showed that they have been radicalized online.
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