8 Bangladeshis detained under ISA for terror links
Eight Bangladeshis working in S'pore were detained under the Internal Security Act last month for planning terror attacks, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday. FOO JIE YING and TAN TAM MEI (email@example.com) report
He was a skilled and educated Bangladeshi national who came to work in Singapore on an S-pass.
Not long after, in January this year, Rahman Mizanur, 31, started recruiting other Bangladeshis to form the beginnings of a terror cell.
By March, he managed to convert seven of his compatriots to his radical leanings of using violence to fulfil their agenda.
Making their intentions clear, the radicalised group called themselves the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB).
Last month, all eight men, who were employed in the construction and marine industries, were detained by the Internal Security Department (ISD) under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday.
The other seven detainees were work permit holders - Mamun Leakot Ali, 29; Sohag Ibrahim, 27; Miah Rubel, 26; Zzaman Daulat, 34; Islam Shariful, 27; Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, 30; and Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader, 29.
According to MHA, they had wanted to join the notorious terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the intention of overthrowing the Bangladeshi government, and then establish an Islamic state that would become part of ISIS' self-declared caliphate.
The detentions come at a time of concern that ISIS is winning recruits from Bangladesh, where radicals had recently carried out deadly attacks on minorities.
Investigations into the ISB also led to the repatriation of five Bangladeshi workers, who were not involved in the terror cell but possessed or proliferated jihadi-related materials or supported the use of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause.
"ISB poses a security concern to Singapore because of its support for ISIS and its readiness to resort to the use of violence overseas," said MHA.
The ministry's announcement yesterday came mere months after 27 Bangladeshi construction workers in Singapore were arrested and deported towards the end of last yearfor terror links and possession of materials on terrorist propaganda.
In March, the MHA also revealed that four Singaporeans had been dealt with under the ISA for taking part in violence or intending to do so in armed conflicts overseas.
MHA warned in its statement: "Any person, foreigner or otherwise, who engages in any activity that is inimical to Singapore's national security, and racial and religious harmony will be firmly dealt with under the law."
Anyone who knows or suspects that a person has been radicalised, or is engaging in terrorist activities or propagating extremist teachings, should promptly inform the ISD on 1800-2626-473 or the police on 999.
TNP ILLUSTRATION: KELVIN CHAN
1 Rahman Mizanur converted seven of his compatriots to his radical leanings of using terror and violence to fulfil their agenda.
2 To execute their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh, the group raised money in Singapore to buy firearms.
3 Documents on weapons and a bombmaking manual were found on Rahman.
THE PLAN: Radical materials used to recruit members
He would attack any place in the world - including Singapore - if he were asked to by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
This was part of Rahman Mizanur's plans as leader of the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB).
But so far, there is no specific indication of Singapore being a selected target, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in its statement.
He started recruiting members to join ISB in January, using the radical materials of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
The Internal Security Department (ISD) later recovered a "significant amount" of such materials from Rahman, who had entered Singapore on an S-Pass to work.
Self-radicalised individuals like Rahman are usually brainwashed as students in religious institutes run by Islamic terrorist groups back home, said Mr A.K.M. Mohsin, the editor of Banglar Kantha, Singapore's only Bengali newspaper.
And when they come to Singapore, they will try to spread terrorist propaganda to their compatriots.
Mr Mohsin, who has worked with Bangladeshi workers for the past two decades, told The New Paper yesterday: "Some of them even collect donations every month and send the money home to fund terrorism plans.
"They have no destructive intentions here. They just want to influence others to join them."
Weekly meetings to recruit more people to their cell are usually held near mosques or near their living quarters.
Mr Mohsin said: "They look like they are talking to each other, but they are actually trying to get new members...
"They want people to believe in their ideology. But what (the radicals) publicise about terrorism and destruction is not real Islam. The ISIS ideology is about bullying people," said Mr Mohsin.
Rahman and his group's original intention was to join ISIS as foreign fighters.
OVERTHROW BY FORCE
But after finding it difficult to make their way to the Middle East, they focused their efforts on returning home to overthrow the government by force.
ISD investigations revealed the possible targets of Rahman and his group from a document recovered from him.
Titled "We Need for Jihad Fight", it contained a list of people in Bangladesh who could be attacked, including government and military officials, those in the media and disbelievers of Islam.
Documents on weapons and a bomb-making manual were also found on Rahman.
To execute their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh, the group raised money in Singapore to buy firearms. The money has been seized, said MHA.
Several of the eight detainees may be prosecuted for terrorism financing, it added.
THE COMMUNITY: 'Most of us just want to live here peacefully'
Late last year, 27 Bangladeshis were arrested and deported for terror links.
In April, another eight were detained under the Internal Security Act, the Home Affairs Ministry revealed yesterday.
To Mr A.K.M. Mohsin, the editor of Singapore's only Bengali newspaper, the two incidents are enough to give the Bangladeshi community here a bad name.
"The local community will now look at us as if we are terrorists... It is very shameful for us," he said.
Dr. A.K.M. Aminullah, the general-secretary of the Singapore Bangladesh Society, said: "It is unfortunate. We are very shaken and upset by the news. If (these arrests) happen repeatedly, it is bad for our reputation in Singapore.
"Most of us just want to live here peacefully."
The society is looking at what else it can do beyond the three to four dormitory visits it conducts jointly with the High Commission of Bangladesh every year.
During the visits, Bangladeshi workers are discouraged from taking part in terror-related activities. They are also educated on the laws in Singapore.
"We will discuss this issue (of terrorism) during our upcoming meeting with the council members to see what else we can do... It is a topic we must discuss," Dr Aminullah said.
Mr Mohsin has used his newspaper, Banglar Kantha, to remind his readers not to take part in terror-related activities.
Mr Muhammad Faizal Othman, who chairs the Taman Jurong Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, cautioned Singaporeans against marginalising the Bangladeshi community.
"I think this is a battle, a war, that the extremists are making. For our side, we have to respond to tell them that we are a peaceful community and they cannot rob this peace," he said.
"We will always be vigilant and ensure our social fabric isn't torn."
Mr Sazzad Hossain, 22, chief executive of the Social Development Initiative Academy, which conducts English lessons for migrant workers, also spoke up for the Bangladeshi community.
"I think there are two sides to the story. Most Bangladeshis are peace-loving... More than 300 workers have graduated from our academy. They are really nice people," he said.
Adding that it was important to engage migrant workers and make them feel included so they would not think about harming others, Mr Sazzad said: "I'll tell (those who stereotype Bangladeshi workers) to interact with the workers in person. Their views will change.
"They will realise that an insignificant portion of migrant workers turn to extremist activities.
"It is our responsibility to help turn them away from that."