S’porean Boys Aged 15 & 16 Self-Radicalised Online, One Joined ISIS-Themed Roblox Gaming Server

Self-Radicalised Boys Receive Detention & Restriction Orders From ISD

Two self-radicalised Singaporean boys have received orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement today (21 Feb).

One of them, a 15-year-old boy, was in Secondary 3 at the time of his arrest in November 2022.

He is the youngest person in Singapore to have received a detention order under the ISA.

2 self-radicalised Singaporean boys receive orders under ISA

According to MHA, the 15-year-old considered conducting attacks in Singapore including beheading non-Muslims with a knife in popular tourist areas.

He also thought about being a suicide bomber and fantasised about exploding himself, taking inspiration from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) videos.

In early 2022, he self-radicalised after coming across podcasts by foreign segregationist preacher Ismail Menk. The teen was reportedly searching for religious content.

Since Menk’s teachings promote religious disharmony, the authorities have banned him from preaching in Singapore.

In his online searches, the teen encountered violent violent militant content including ISIS propaganda, noted the MHA. He also participated in discussions with foreign personas who influenced him with their extremist beliefs.

15-year-old boy deeply radicalised

By mid-2022, the deeply radicalised boy formed the belief that armed violence was permissible against “disbelievers”. This included Shia Muslims, Sufi Muslims, and non-Muslims.

MHA stated the teen’s perception that anyone who does the following is a “disbeliever(s)” who should be killed:

  • “oppress” Muslims
  • enforce secular laws
  • obstruct the establishment of an Islamic caliphate

He apparently had a strong desire to live in an Islamic caliphate under Islamic law and considered travelling to Afghanistan for this. However, the boy did not make any preparations at the time of his arrest.

Additionally, he was willing to support groups seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore or abroad. He was ready to show his support by taking a pledge of allegiance, undertaking any assigned tasks and participating in armed jihad.

The youth reportedly viewed dying as a martyr to be the responsibility of all Muslims, MHA claimed.

Expressed support for Islamic-State & Al-Qaeda

MHA added that the teenager supported the Islamic State, regarding the militant killing of Shia Muslims and Yazidis as “justified”.

He shared pro-ISIS materials via social media and attempted but failed to purchase an ISIS flag on e-commerce platforms in the second half of 2022.

The boy’s support for Al-Qaeda came from his worship of their late founder Osama bin Laden who was “a defender of Islam” to him.

He believed the 9/11 attacks were justified retaliation against Americans for killing “innocent Muslims”. He also viewed the terrorist group as defending Muslims from oppression.

As such, the boy posted online to justify their violent acts.

He also tried radicalising his classmates and convincing two foreign contacts online to join him in engaging in armed violence but was unsuccessful.

In light of all the above, the Internal Security Department (ISD) issued the boy with an Order of Detention (OD).

16-year-old earlier came under earlier scrutiny

Meanwhile, the ISD issued a 16-year-old boy with a Restriction Order (RO) in Jan 2023.

He apparently self-radicalised after coming across ISIS propaganda online and believed in using armed violence to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Prior to his latest arrest, the teen reportedly formed an interest in far-right extremist content in 2020, at the age of 14. The content included anti-Semitic material and the support of neo-Nazi groups promoting a “race war”.

Besides such content, certain YouTube videos also drew the boy to Islamic eschatological prophecies. He additionally encountered Islamic State songs through online streaming platforms.

Upon discovering these concerning activities, the ISD investigated him in November of that year.

An assessment deemed him vulnerable to radicalisation, and so the ISD warned the boy to stay away from online extremist content.

Continued engaging with extremist content

Despite the warning, the teenager allegedly continued engaging with Islamic State materials and online discussions about the group.

He believed in the group’s legitimacy, supporting its “goal of creating an Islamic caliphate through violence”.

The boy also joined several Islamic State-themed servers on Roblox.

The servers would use Roblox settings to replicate physical Islamic State conflict zones.

Seeing himself as a member of the group, the teenager took a pledge of allegiance to be an in-game “leader”.

Acting as a “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist”, he said his actions within the game, such as shooting and killing off “enemies”, were an imitation of his desire to be a member in real life.

The boy additionally created and uploaded three propaganda videos onto social media between late 2021 and early 2022 to show his support for the Islamic State.

Using Roblox game footage showing attacks, he added the group’s songs and superimposed images of the flag.

Both youths share links with earlier detainee

MHA revealed that both youths had online links to 18-year-old Singaporean Muhammad Irfan Danyal bin Mohamad Nor, who was detained in Dec 2022.

While their self-radicalisation occurred separately, the three boys knew each other over the same extremist social media channel and would share tips on concealing radical activities.

However, they did not meet physically or discuss plans to travel together.

The two boys’ family members were also unaware of their radical views and support for armed violence.

The MHA stressed that extremist and terrorist groups often target youths for radicalisation and recruitment online as they are more impressionable in their search for a sense of identity, purpose and belonging.

These groups also misuse online gaming platforms to recruit gamers by appropriating gaming culture. Through such methods, they spread their ideological beliefs to vulnerable youths on those platforms.

Teens to undergo intensive religious counselling

Since 2015, the ISD has dealt with 11 self-radicalised Singaporeans aged 20 or below under ISA, all of whom underwent radicalisation online.

The ISD said it has a “comprehensive and holistic approach” towards the rehabilitation of the detainees and those under restriction orders.

According to MHA, the 15-year-old boy will receive intensive religious counselling. During the sessions, religious counsellors will try to address the religious misconceptions which culminated in his support for armed violence and groups like Al-Qaeda.

Likewise, the 16-year-old boy will also undergo the same religious counselling.

In addition, he will participate in programmes under the Religious Rehabilitation Group’s Resource and Counselling Centre to “deepen his appreciation of Singapore’s multi-racial and multi-religious context”.

Case officers will be guiding the youths regularly and assessing their rehabilitation progress.

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Featured image adapted from Ministry of Home Affairs.

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