Singapore Expels Malaysian Man Who Allegedly Planned to Join IS in Syria

Muzliza Mustafa
Kuala Lumpur
2021-02-09
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Singapore Expels Malaysian Man Who Allegedly Planned to Join IS in Syria Police officers walk on patrol along the Marina Bay promenade in Singapore on Dec. 27, 2020.
[AFP]

Singapore has deported a Malaysian man who intended to travel to Syria with his wife to fight alongside the Islamic State extremist group, authorities in the city-state said on Tuesday.

Upon his expulsion to his home country in August, Malaysia charged the man for possession of terror-related items, and a judge is expected to examine case materials on March 1, the country’s counterterrorism chief told BenarNews on Tuesday.

“Mohd Firdaus bin Kamal Intdzam (Firdaus), a 33-year-old Malaysian, was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in July 2020. Investigations revealed that Firdaus, who was working as a cleaner in Singapore, was a supporter of the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” according to a statement issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs and the city-state’s Internal Security Department (ISD).

“ISD had worked closely with the Malaysian Special Branch (MSB) on the investigations into Firdaus. His Work Pass was canceled and he was repatriated to Malaysia and handed over to MSB in August 2020 upon the completion of ISD’s investigation into him.”

It was not immediately clear why the Singaporean agencies had waited till Tuesday to announce the deportation. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian counterterrorism police chief Normah Ishak confirmed that Firdaus had been deported in August. 

“He was charged in August 2020 at the Johor Bahru Session Court in Johor  with five charges for possessing items related to terrorist acts under Section 130JB (1) (a) of the Penal Code,” Normah told BenarNews.

If convicted, Firdaus could be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison, or fined, according to the penal code.

“The prosecutor is still waiting for the completed expert and forensic reports [in the case],” Normah said via text messages, adding that the judge had set March 1 as the next court date to examine evidence.

“The prosecutor is expected to request the court to transfer the case to the Kuala Lumpur High Court,” Normah said.

‘Intention to travel to Syria’

According to Singapore’s investigation, Firdaus began to be radicalized in 2016, when he found Islamic State propaganda online during his research to learn more about religion, Singaporean officials said.

Two years later, he was convinced that the group was fighting for Islam and that its use of violence to create and Islamic state was justified, the ISD said.

Islamic State’s self-declared Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, Firdaus believed, was the true Islamic leader. The top IS leader was killed when he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing during a raid by U.S. forces in Syria in October 2019.

“Even with the demise of ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Firdaus remained a fervent supporter of ISIS. He actively posted materials promoting ISIS and armed jihad on his social media accounts. … He harbored the intention to travel to Syria with his wife to fight alongside ISIS,” the statement from Singapore said, referring to the Islamic State by another acronym.

IS’s last bastion in Syria fell in March 2019.

Meanwhile last August, Singapore imposed severe restrictions on Firdaus’s wife, Singaporean Ruqayyah Ramli, who was radicalized after her marriage in 2018, according to the ISD.

“She was issued with a Restriction Order (RO) under the ISA for a period of two years in August 2020 after investigations found that she had been radicalized by her husband, the department said.

A person under such an order is not permitted to change his or her residence or employment, or travel out of Singapore, without the prior approval of the ISD. The individual also cannot issue public statements, address public meetings, or print and distribute any materials.

Ruqayyah, 34, was a housewife and a part-time religious teacher who supported Firdaus’s ambition to go to Syria, the agency said.

“She was willing to accompany him to Syria, and intended to bring her two children along. She believed that her role in the conflict zone would be to take care of the family (through cooking and housework), and to assist other wounded ISIS fighters,” the ISD said.

The investigation did not find proof that Ruqayyah had attempted to spread her pro-IS views.

“She is not allowed to conduct religious classes as part of her restriction order conditions. She is presently undergoing religious counseling to steer her away from her radical path,” the department said.

7 arrests last year

On Nov. 24, 2020, Singapore announced that another Malaysian national was sent back home after that person was found to have been radicalized. Singapore did not say when it expelled that person.

Malaysia did not take any action against this person because police had cleared that individual, Normah told BenarNews on Tuesday.

Malaysia made seven counterterrorism arrests last year, she said.

“In January [2020], six were arrested where three were charged and three more were released due to insufficient evidence. In August 2020, we arrested one individual and successfully charged him in court,” Normah said.

By comparison, Malaysia arrested 72 IS-linked suspects in 2019 and 119 the year before that.

“Due to health security and pandemic prevention measures, daily movement and activities have been restricted. So this has indirectly reduced the risk and flattened the curve of terrorism in Malaysia,” Normah said last month during a symposium on preventing violent extremism.

In September, security analysts told BenarNews that IS was stepping up recruitment in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the Philippines, amid the distraction of a global pandemic.

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