SINGAPORE – Two Singaporean auxiliary police officers have been arrested for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The duo were fellow AETOS officers at Woodlands Checkpoint when they were nabbed last month, said the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday (June 20).
Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has since been detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, is placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his plan, the ministry added in its statement.
Their arrests come one week after the ministry said last Monday that a woman had been detained.
Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, an infant care assistant, is the first Singaporean woman to be detained for radicalism under the ISA.
She was planning to travel to Syria with her child to become a “martyr’s widow”, fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The two auxiliary police officers are private contractors hired to do police duties such as carrying out security checks at buildings and crowd control.
Wearing police uniform, they have powers similar to that of police officers while on duty. These include carrying out a search and making an arrest.
Some are armed with revolvers.
Kairul’s duties, however, did not require him to be armed, the ministry said.
He was working as an outrider at the checkpoint, performing traffic enforcement duties when he was arrested.
The ministry said he became radicalised in 2012 after he went online to gather information about the conflict in Syria.
“He developed the view that the conflict in Syria was a sectarian struggle between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, and being a Sunni Muslim, he wanted to fight against the Shi’ites in Syria by joining the Free Syrian Army (FSA),” the MHA said, noting that the FSA is formed by Syrian Armed Forces defectors who are fighting the Syrian government.
“Khairul perceived the Syrian conflict to be a “holy war” in which he was prepared to die in battle as a “martyr” and receive divine rewards,” the MHA noted. In 2014, he tried to contact a foreign militant and FSA supporters on Facebook.
“At the point of his arrest, Khairul was still interested to join FSA or any other militant groups operating in Syria and engage in armed violence there,” the MHA said. “His readiness and proclivity to resort to violence in pursuit of a religious cause makes him a security threat to Singapore.”
His colleague Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, was working as “an armed officer conducting general security duties” at the Woodlands Checkpoint when he was arrested last month. The MHA pointed out that Mohamad Rizal knew about his colleague’s plan to travel to Syria to fight, but he “not only failed to bring the matter to the attention of the authorities or the AETOS management, he even suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria and to die there as a ‘martyr'”.
While Mohamad Rizal did not share the same desire to take part in armed violence, “as an auxiliary police officer, he should have been aware of the prevailing terrorism threat and his failure to dissuade Khairul and report him to his superior officer was a serious lapse of judgement”, the MHA noted.
He was placed on a restriction order that curtials his movements and activities.
On the arrests of the two auxiliary police officers, the MHA said that it “takes a serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place”.
It added: “This is particularly so if the person involved is a public servant, and especially if he or she is a uniformed officer.”
It also repeated the call it made last week for families and friends to report those whom they suspect to have been radicalised. “In the case of Khairul, several relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward,” the MHA said.
In a door-stop interview with reporters on Tuesday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said that Muhammad Khairul Mohamed was vetted by the authorities when he joined AETOS in 2015. But the vetting process would not have picked up the intentions, said Mr Shanmugam.
“There were no obvious signs and it would have been difficult to have picked it up,” he said. “And I think it would be very wrong to suggest that employers start vetting Muslim candidates in a different way, and that will have the very opposite effect of what you want.”
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