ISD arrest teen Christian extremist

Christian Teen detained by ISD for Terror Plot against Muslims

The ISD has released a statement regarding the detention of a 16-year-old male Singaporean in December 2020 under the Internal Security Act (ISA).  The would-be terrorist was a secondary school student at the time. He developed detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore.

The detainee is an Indian Protestant Christian

According to the ISD statement, the youth is identified as a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity. He is the first detainee to draw inspiration from far-right extremist ideology.  He is also the youngest individual to-date dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities. The would-be terrorist was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence.  He watched the live-streamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. Following that, he read the Christchurch attacker’s manifesto, Brenton Tarrant (Tarrant).  He had also watched the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos. From there, he came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam.

Inspired by Christchurch attacker

It was clear from the attack plans and preparations that Tarrant’s actions and manifesto influenced this youth.  First, he planned to carry out his attacks on 15 March 2021, the Christchurch attacks’ anniversary.  ISD states that he chose Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque as his targets because they were near his home.  He conducted online reconnaissance and research on both mosques to prepare for the attack.

Secondly, like Tarrant, the youth intended to drive between the two attack sites. Therefore, he devised a plan to procure a vehicle to use during the attack.

tactical vest carousell
The tactical vest he had bought from online

Third, he bought a tactical vest from an online platform, and intended to adorn the vest with right-wing extremist symbols, and modify it so that he could strap on his mobile device to live-stream the attack, just like Tarrant.

ISD says he was looking for a gun

The ISD statement states that before deciding on the machete as his attack weapon, the youth had explored various other options.  His original plan was to use a rifle similar to Tarrant’s.  He managed to find a prospective seller via a private chat platform. However, he did not follow through with the purchase when he suspected it was a scam.  He nevertheless persisted in searching for firearms online. Given Singapore’s strict gun-control laws, he gave up the idea upon realizing that it would be difficult to get his hands on one.

He also explored making a Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) bomb. The suspect planned to mimick Tarrant’s plan of setting fire to the mosques with gasoline.  He eventually dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns.

The youth watched Youtube videos to prepare himself for the knifing attack. He was confident that he would hit the arteries of his targets by randomly slashing at the neck and chest areas.  At the point of his arrest by ISD, the youth had found his choice machete on Carousell but had not purchased it yet.

In other imitation of Tarrant, the youth had prepared two documents which he intended to disseminate before his attacks.

Drafted two messages

machete carousell ad
The Carousell Machete Ads

According to the statement by ISD, the first was a message to the people of France. After the attack against Christians in a church in Nice, France, he drafted this message on 29 Oct 2020.  In the letter, he called on the French people to “stand up for what is right”, claiming that “we cannot let them [i.e. Muslims] lurk in our bushes and wait for them to attack”. He referred to his intended attacks as a “massacre”, an “act of vengeance” and a “call for war” against Islam. He also referred to readers as a “great audience”, about his intention to live-stream his attacks.

2nd Message justifying the killing of Muslims

The second document, which was still unfinished when the youth was arrested. It was a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam and his belief that “violence should never be solved with peace”, because peace, while “moral”, is “nowhere near effective” as violence.  He also expressed hope that “my act of extremism or some would call ‘a justifiable act of violence’… would cause a change in those who believe that Islamic extremism is right”.  The draft borrowed heavily from Tarrant’s manifesto. The draft also referred to Tarrant as a “saint”. Finally, the draft also describes the Christchurch attacks as a “justifiable killing of Muslims”.

ISD says he is a Meticulous Planner

The detailed planning and preparation attest to the youth’s determination to follow through with his attack plan.  During the investigation, he admitted that he could only foresee two outcomes to his plan. Firstly, the police arrest him before he can carry out the attacks. Or secondly, the police kill him after he executes his plan.

ISD’s investigation to-date indicates that the youth had acted alone. ISD statement reports that there is no indication that the influence anyone with his extreme outlook. There was also no evidence of involving others in his attack plans.  His immediate family and others in his social circles were unaware of his attack plans. They were also unaware of the depth of his hatred for Islam.

This case demonstrates yet again that radical ideas can find resonance among and radicalise Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion.  ISD calls upon the public to remain vigilant to signs self-radicalization among friends and family.

Visit the link here for the full statement by ISD.

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