Malaysian authorities took a 33-year-old citizen into custody after his deportation from Singapore, which arrested him last month over allegations that he had acted on plans to join terrorist groups in the Middle East, officials said Friday.
Muhammad Nur Hanief bin Abdul Jalil, who worked as a driver for an airfreight company in Singapore, was handed over on Feb. 2, a senior Malaysian police officer said.
“I can confirm that the suspect is under our custody. He is now held under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) for further investigations,” the official, who requested anonymity, told BenarNews.
Under the act, Malaysian authorities can hold suspects up to 28 days without trial. SOSMA replaced the controversial Internal Security Act, which allowed for detention of up to two years without requiring authorities to present the suspect in court.
On Friday, Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) issued a statement saying that Hanief, who had access to a restricted area at Southeast Asia’s busiest airport, Changi, was arrested under the city-state’s Internal Security Act.
Singaporean investigators confirmed that he had access to published writings of foreign extremist preachers, including Imran Hosein, Zakir Naik and Anjem Choudary, since 2008, the statement said.
“Through sustained exposure to such materials, he became convinced that he should travel to Syria or Palestine to participate in the conflict there,” the ministry said.
Unlike some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, Singapore has a near-perfect record of keeping its shores free from terror. In 2017, The Economist magazine named it as the world’s second safest city in 2017 after Tokyo.
Earlier this month, Singapore’s police force launched terror-attack simulations. In addition, its Home Affairs Ministry admitted that it had stepped up efforts to deter terrorism in recent years. It said this resulted from security concerns over frequent terror attacks in Western countries and after a five-month battle in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, in which 1,200 people, mostly pro-Islamic State militants, were killed.
Last year, Singapore denied entry to Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian preacher Ustaz Haslin Baharim (aka “Uztaz Bollywood”), who were on a scheduled religious-themed cruise.
The statement said Hanief, who had held various jobs in Singapore since 2011, was prepared to head to the Mid-East in late 2017.
“He was prepared to join any militant group there, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Free Syrian Army, or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (previously known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham/Jabhat al-Nusra), because he believed that all these groups would ultimately unite at the ‘end-of-times,’” the statement said.
The ministry said Hanief had contacted Haslin and sought advice on becoming a martyr in Syria.
“Haslin’s response was that it was God’s will if one should die as a martyr, which Hanief interpreted as an affirmative reply,” the statement said.
“While investigations did not surface any indication that he had tried to radicalize others or planned any terrorist attacks in Singapore, his radicalization renders him a security threat to Singapore,” it added.
In Malaysia, authorities have arrested 372 people (including Hanief) for suspected links to terror groups during the past four years. Those numbers include 71 foreigners, according to government statistics.
Thirty-four Malaysians have been reported killed while fighting for the extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Another 24 men, 12 women and 17 children are believed to be in Syria, but may have fled from cities where battles took place, according to Malaysian police last year.