Singapore in the crosshairs. Their fortress? The mosque. Always the mosque.
Arrested extremists could have ‘easily changed minds, attacked Singapore’: K Shanmugam, Channel News Asia, January 21, 2016:
Leaders in Singapore urge vigilance against extremism and caution against the discrimination of foreign workers after the arrest of 27 Bangladeshi nationals for terror links.
SINGAPORE: The 27 Bangladeshi nationals arrested in Singapore with terror links “could easily have changed their minds and attacked Singapore,” said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Jan 20).
He noted that the men, who were meeting on a regular basis at a mosque, had materials on techniques of silent killing and videos of jihadist propaganda. While the minister did not name the mosque, Bangladeshi newspapers The Daily Star and New Age cited case documents stating that it was the Angullia Mosque near Mustafa Centre.
“Our security agencies have done well in picking them up early. I had said yesterday that the threat of terrorism is real. We are getting daily reminders of that,” said Mr Shanmugam, who had highlighted in a speech on Tuesday that Southeast Asia has become “fertile ground” for terrorism.
MEN WERE “SERIOUS THREAT” TO SINGAPORE: PM
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the 27 men as a “serious threat” to Singapore, even though they did not plan to carry out their “nefarious” activities in the country.
“We are tightening up our security, and acting to protect our racial and religious harmony. Radicalisation and terrorism must never take root in Singapore,” he said in a Facebook post. He also urged people to be on guard for suspicious activities.
Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim also expressed concern, following the arrests.
“Terrorism is a continuing threat that can have a grave impact on all of us. I appeal that we be more vigilant, whether against radical teachings and ideologies, or of any suspicious activities around us,” said Dr Yaacob in a Facebook post.
LEADERS CAUTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
However, Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister for Communications and Information, also cautioned against discriminating migrant workers in Singapore. “The actions of a few cannot determine how we treat others who have worked so hard to build our homes, schools and hospitals,” he explained. “All of us, regardless of race, language or religion, have a role to play.”
“Majority of the foreign workers here contribute positively to the growth and development of our nation,” added Labour Chief and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing. “As such, we must be careful not to let the actions of these radicalised foreign workers taint the positive contributions of other law-abiding foreign workers who live harmoniously amongst us.”
Mr Chan also urged Singapore to strengthen efforts to integrate foreign workers and guard against ostracising them.
“It is also critical that we do not allow this incident to affect the strong ties we share with our fellow Muslim Singaporeans as religious harmony is the cornerstone to our unique heritage in Singapore,” he said. “The greater the threat to split our social fabric, the more we must reach out and embrace each other as Singaporeans.”
ABOUT THE ARRESTS
The 27 men, all working in the construction industry in Singapore, were arrested under the Internal Security Act last year, said the Ministry of Home Affairs. All but one have been repatriated to Bangladesh, with the last set to be sent home after serving a jail term for attempting to illegally leave Singapore.
Of those arrested, 26 of them were members of a closed religious study group which supported the ideology of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State. The remaining Bangladeshi national was not part of the group but he was found to be supportive of extremist preachers, and had radicalism-related material.
Those arrested in Singapore had been encouraged by their leaders to return to Bangladesh and carry out terror activities against the government, said MHA. Several of them had also contemplated travelling to and committing terror acts in the Middle East.