February 2, 2023
SINGAPORE – A self-radicalised 18-year-old student was detained in December 2022, after he made plans to take part in armed violence in Singapore and abroad in support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor had plans to stab and kill non-believers in dark alleys here, carry out a mass-casualty attack at Amoy Quee Camp by recruiting a suicide car bomber, and construct a C4 explosive device to bomb the Keramat Habib Noh grave site at Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque in Tanjong Pagar.
The teenager also intended to declare Coney Island an ISIS wilayat (province) in the hope that it would be recognised by ISIS as its official affiliate.
He was arrested by the Internal Security Department (ISD) a few days before he planned to take the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to then ISIS leader Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi at the weekend of Nov 12, 2022, wearing his National Cadet Corps (NCC) uniform and a self-made ISIS flag and headband.
ISD said on Wednesday that Irfan is believed to have acted alone and had not radicalised others. His family members were not aware of his attack plans or intention to take part in armed violence overseas.
He began getting radicalised in 2020 after coming across YouTube videos by foreign extremist preacher Zakir Naik. After watching many of the preacher’s videos, Irfan watched videos of other foreign extremist preachers such as Ahmed Deedat.
He also joined online discussions and was exposed to ISIS propaganda, developing an interest in ISIS and admiring the mujahideen (fighters) featured in videos.
By late 2021, he started taking photos of himself in a ski mask, with his index finger raised to represent the concept of tawhid, mimicking the ISIS fighters he had seen online. The tawhid hand sign, symbolising the Islamic theological concept of the oneness of God, has been appropriated by terrorist groups like ISIS.
From late 2021, Irfan wanted to live in an Islamic caliphate governed by syariah (Islamic law) and establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore. He also wanted to recruit Muslims to join the caliphate.
On Aug 9, 2022, he planted a flag he had designed – based on the flag of the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham – on Coney Island. He claimed this symbolised the start of his own caliphate, which he named the “Islamic State of Singhafura”, on Singapore’s National Day, and uploaded pictures of the flag on his social media to encourage others to join, said ISD.
By October 2022, he wanted to travel to Nigeria to participate in armed violence with the Islamic State in West Africa Province. Irfan said he was prepared to die fighting on the battlefield, believing that he would achieve martyrdom that way.
He also saw Iraq, Syria, or Marawi in the southern Philippines as alternative destinations for armed violence and made online searches for flights from Singapore to these locations. He planned to travel to them after he had saved enough money.
In the meantime, he planned to demonstrate his support for ISIS by filming a video of himself taking the ba’iah on Coney Island. He understood the bai’ah to mean that he would have to comply with instructions from ISIS, including conducting attacks in Singapore, even if it meant being killed in the process.
“Irfan believed that it was his religious obligation to spread ISIS’ radical ideology. He planned to upload his video to various social media platforms to galvanise support for ISIS, and to recruit an ISIS army of between 100 and 500 fighters to assist him in conducting attacks in Singapore,” said ISD.
This led to the teenager planning the three attacks in Singapore.
He bought a knife from a convenience store in August 2022 and planned to stab and kill people he regarded as “disbelievers” by ambushing them in dark alleys and taking their belongings as war spoils for his ISIS army. They included non-Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims and Sufi Muslims.
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said during a media conference at Masjid Khalid in Joo Chiat Road on Wednesday: “At the point of arrest, he was determined to commit violence. He is, in our assessment, likely to have carried out a knife attack at some point… We assessed him to be an imminent security threat. That is why he was arrested.”
On his plan to attack Amoy Quee Camp, where the NCC headquarters is located, ISD said he had been inspired by ISIS car-bomb videos and wanted to recruit a suicide bomber who would bomb the gate of the camp. He then intended to lead his ISIS army to attack the guards using weapons like axes and knives, and steal the firearms from the guardhouse in the camp.
In his third plan of attack, Irfan downloaded a C4 bomb-making manual online, intending to construct a homemade explosive to flatten the Keramat Habib Noh grave site as it was decorated and not at ground level, which he believed was “un-Islamic”.
At the time of his arrest, Irfan’s attack plans against Amoy Quee Camp and Keramat Habib Noh had not progressed beyond the ideation stage, said ISD.
“The case also underscores the trend of youth radicalisation seen in recent years, and the threat of lone-actor attacks against soft targets, using simple, easily accessible weapons,” it added.
In March 2021, it was reported that a 20-year-old full-time national serviceman who planned to use a knife to attack and kill Jews here, and to take up arms abroad, had been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Earlier in January 2021, it was reported that a 16-year-old Singaporean student was detained after the authorities uncovered his plans to attack two mosques and kill worshippers in Singapore on March 15, 2021 – the second anniversary of the Christchurch terror attacks.
ISD said 16 people are currently detained under the ISA.
Singaporean Imran Mahmood, 44, was released from detention and placed on a restriction order in January. He had been detained in January 2019 for harbouring the intention to travel to Syria to take up arms and fight alongside ISIS.
The Ministry of Education noted Irfan was last in school at the end of term in November 2022. It said it will continue to work closely with ISD and the community to safeguard education institutions and students against such threats.
The Ministry of Defence said the Singapore Armed Forces has systems and measures to respond to different security threats at its camps. Its service personnel are also briefed on potential threats, and educated on how to respond to suspicious activities and signs, including those related to radicalism and extremism.
The public was reminded to stay vigilant to signs of someone becoming radicalised. Those with suspicions can contact the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline on 1800-2626-473.