Singapore warns of radicalisation via gaming as 2 teens issued orders under ISA law

Singapore warns of radicalisation via gaming as 2 teens issued orders under ISA law

Two Singaporean teenage boys have separately been issued orders under the country’s Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities after allegedly becoming radicalised online, including through an Islamic State-themed gaming server, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said on Tuesday.

One of the accused, a 15-year-old boy who is the youngest person to be held under the law, has been detained since November after he was arrested, the ISD said. The other, a 16-year-old, was issued with a restriction order in January, limiting his movements and preventing him from issuing public statements.

The ISD said in a statement that the younger teen thought about carrying out knife attacks in Singapore, and even about beheading non-Muslims in popular tourist areas and becoming a suicide bomber.

“At the point of his arrest, the youth was deeply entrenched in his radical views, but had yet to undertake any steps towards actualising his attack ideations,” it added.

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The ISA gives the home affairs minister the power to detain individuals without trial for two-year terms that can be renewed at the minister’s discretion. In recent years, the colonial-era law has been used against suspected militants.

It is one of Singapore’s most controversial laws, with critics arguing its expansive powers may be used without oversight.

The teens were not named because they are under the age of 18.

But ISD has revealed details of their alleged crimes. The 16-year-old first came to the attention of the authorities in November 2020 when he was just 14, for joining multiple Islamic State-themed servers on Roblox, a social gaming platform.

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He used the platform to replicate Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) conflict zones, such as Syria and Marawi city in the southern Philippines, and regarded himself as an Isis member and took the baiah (allegiance) to an in-game “Isis leader”.

He played out his fantasies on the game – where he would shoot and kill enemies and undertake roles as the “spokesperson” and “chief propagandist” for his virtual Isis faction, the ISD said in its statement.

In December, 18-year-old Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor, who is accused of supporting Isis was also detained under the ISA after he planned to set up an Islamic caliphate on Singapore’s Coney Island.
A self-radicalised 18-year-old who supported Isis and planned to set up an Islamic caliphate on Singapore’s Coney Island was detained in December under the ISA. Photo: Handout/Singapore’s Internal Security Department

Both of the teenage boys were in contact with Irfan before he was detained last year, meeting through the same extremist social media channel, said the ISD.

A total of 11 people under the age of 21 have been punished under the ISA since 2015 – seven were detained and four given restriction orders.

The 15-year-old is alleged to have listened to podcasts in early 2022 by Islamic preacher Ismail Menk, who has millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter, and was banned from preaching in Singapore since 2015 for segregationist teachings.

Extremist ideas continue to find resonance among Singaporeans

Internal Security Department

Ismail was also barred from entering Singapore in 2017.

The 15-year-old then went on to other social media platforms, where he was exposed to Isis propaganda and extremist views, the ISD said, adding he shared pro-Isis content on his social media channels and attempted to buy an Isis flag online in the later half of the year.

The cases involving Irfan and the two youths demonstrate how “extremist ideas continue to find resonance among Singaporeans”, said the ISD, adding that online gaming platforms have been used as a platform for terrorist groups to disseminate ideological beliefs to recruit vulnerable and younger gamers.

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