The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a press statement on February 15, confirmed that two Singaporeans were detained in January for their involvement in activities that were terrorism-related.
The detainees were Mohamed Kazali bin Salleh (Kazali) and Hazim Syahmi bin Mahfoot (Hazim).
Kazali, a 48-year-old Malaysia-based businessman, worked in Johor Bahru over the last 10 years. His early years were also in Malaysia.
According to a Mothership report,10 years ago Kazali made the acquaintance of Wan Mohd Aquil bin Wan Zainal Abidin Akel Zainal (Akel), who is Malaysian, and is widely perceived to be the most senior Malaysian ISIS fighter in Syria.
Kazali helped financially support Akel’s travel to Syria.
Malaysian officials believe that Akel is behind two separate plots to attack police stations and places of worship in Malaysia, which were thwarted with the arrest of ISIS supporters in the country in November 2018.
Akel was instrumental in radicalizing Kazali, who eventually believed that it was his duty to go to Syria to defend Muslims against their oppressors.
Kazali continued to support Akel financially while he was in Syria. In his deepening radicalization, Kazali took an oath of loyalty called a bai’ah to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
There were plans for Kazali himself to go to Syria a number of times, but this never happened. Similarly, Akel ordered Kazali to attack a Johor Bahru Freemasons center in late 2018, but Kazali was too afraid of the authorities to carry it out.
However, he continued to publish Akel’s movements on his social media accounts and encouraged others to go to Syria to join the fighting there.
The other person that the MHA detained, Hazim, is a Singapore-based freelance car exporter. He and Kazali became friends in May last year.
Kazali’s radicalism influenced Hazim, age 28, to commit violent acts against Islam’s enemies, to the extent of going to areas around the globe such as Palestine, Myanmar, and Syria, to join the armed conflict.
Like Kazali, Hazim also took a bai’ah pledge of allegiance.
Working together, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) and the Malaysian Special Branch (MSB) have been investigating Kazali’s action and ties to Akel.
Kazali was arrested in December 2018 in Malaysia and was deported to Singapore by January 7, and given an Order of Detention (OD) under the ISA.
Hazim was also served with an OD last month in Singapore.
According to the MHA’s statement, “These cases highlight the dangers of radicalisation of Singaporeans overseas, and the potential impact within Singapore. The threat of extremism is one which does not respect national borders.”