Singapore

Editor of Singapore's only Bengali paper: Radicalised Bangladeshis have brought us shame

Community shocked after 27 Bangladeshis arrested for forming S'pore's first foreign terror cell.

They would target their compatriots from Bangladesh, handing out fliers and pressuring them to attend their weekly religious meetings.

For some of the men who went, they found a horrifying message of hate, terror and violence, Mr A.K.M. Mohsin, editor of Singapore's only Bengali newspaper, Banglar Kantha, told The New Paper last night.

Mr Mohsin, who works closely with Bangladeshi workers here, said they told him how they were pressured by their compatriots to attend the meetings which could be at mosques near their dormitories or open fields near their living quarters.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday revealed that many of these men were part of a terror cell here.

It said in a statement that 27 Bangladeshi men had been arrested - between Nov 16 and Dec 1 last year - by the Internal Security Department for terror links.

All worked in construction but were not concentrated in any particular company. They had been in Singapore for between two and seven years.

They supported radical preachers like Anwar al-Awlaki and promoted armed jihad. Al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American Islamic lecturer alleged to have ties with militant group Al-Qaeda, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.

The last man here, Md Zahidul Islam Md Foyej Uddin (below, inset), is serving out a 12-week prison sentence for trying to leave Singapore illegally after finding out what had happened to his friends.

All 27 supported Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This is the first time Singapore has uncovered a jihadist terror cell comprising foreigners, said the Ministry, adding that the men had been meeting since 2013.

To avoid detection, the Bangladeshis would exchange jihad-related materials discreetly. They also had gatherings to discuss armed jihad and conflicts that involved Muslims.

While they were thinking of planning an overseas attack, Singapore was not their target.

A number of them supported armed jihad and even wanted to travel to the Middle East to join in the fight there, believing that terrorist groups targeting Shi'ites were justified because they were "deviant".

Furthermore, some of them were unhappy with the way their religious groups and leaders had been treated in Bangladesh, and wanted to return home to join the fight.

Many sent money to support the efforts and in a bid to grow their group, targeted their compatriots, often pressuring them to join the meetings. It is unclear what the men did at the meetings.

Materials seized from the men included books and videos on jihad.

For at least one Bangladeshi national, finding out what happened to his friend was scant comfort.

Mr Mahbub Rahman, 28, is from Chuadanga, the same town as one of the arrested men, Hossen Md Akram.

Late last November, Hossen's family contacted Mr Mahbub and said they had not been in touch with Hossen for a week or so, and asked if Mr Mahbub could help look for him.

Despite repeated efforts to contact Hossen's employers, the police and even Mr Mohsin, he was no closer to finding his friend.

His friend's mobile phone had also been switched off.

It was only when a Bangladeshi newspaper ran reports of the men having been repatriated that Hossen's family realised he had been arrested.

"We are just from the same village but who Hossen met, how he prayed and what he ate, I do not know," said Mr Mahbub.

In a statement to TNP, the spokesman for the Bangladeshi High Commission in Singapore said security agencies in Bangladesh are aware of the case. Fourteen of the men have been remanded under the Anti-Terrorism Act after their repatriation.

LAW

Investigations are still underway and they will dealt with in accordance with the law of the land.

If found guilty of terrorism activities, the men could face the death penalty.

Mr Mohsin, who has been working with migrant workers for over two decades, said: "This is shameful for our community. Most of the Bangladeshis are here to make an honest living, to support their families."

Others in the Bangladeshi community in Singapore were also rocked by the news.

Mr Raton Kumar, vice-president of Bengali Community Singapore's (BCS) management committee, said: "At BCS, we are not worried about such activity as we are focused on organising functions and events not related to Muslims.

"Still, we are surprised that the Bangladeshi nationals were arrested for such a thing.

"We are scared of those who have been radicalised and think they are very dangerous."

The 50-year-old, who works in the construction industry, added: "It's hard to recognise all these signs of radicalism among foreign workers here. What can we do?"

What the 27 radicalised Bangladeshis have done is not representative of the Bangladeshi community here, said Mr Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, who chairs the Singapore Bangladesh Society's advisory committee.

"Terrorists are terrorists, they do not belong to any group and what they are doing is not a representation of what we are," said the 44-year-old IT services consultant.

Terrorists are terrorists, they do not belong to any group and what they are doing is not a representation of what we are.

- Mr Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, who chairs the Singapore Bangladesh Society's advisory committee

They watched videos of children in 'terror training'

RADICALISATION: (Above and below) Screengrabs of the videos showing children being trained at terrorist military camps. PHOTOS: MHA

Footage of children firing rifles, jihad-related books and a guide to kill with stealth.

These are some of the "significant amount" of jihad-related material seized from the 27 Bangladeshi nationals arrested under the Internal Security Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement yesterday.

The videos were circulated among the radicalised Bangladeshi nationals to instil jihadi fervour.

One of the clips showed children in what appeared to be terrorist military camps, taking kicks and punches from an adult as part of physical training.

They were also hit in their stomachs with a rod. The impact was so great that the rod snapped in two.

In another clip, children were seen sitting in a row, firing guns into the distance.

Another item shared among several of the arrested men was a Bengali soft copy document titled Techniques Of Silent Killing.

It includes a three-step illustrated guide on how one can attack and kill with stealth.

 

RADICALISATION: (Above) An extract from a document saved under the name Techniques Of Silent Killing. PHOTO: MHA

 

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