A 16-year-old Singaporean boy, a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, was detained last month under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after planning to use a machete to attack Muslims at two mosques in March, on the anniversary of New Zealand's Christchurch attacks.
The teenager, who was not named, is the youngest person to be dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said in a media release on Wednesday.
He is the first detainee in the city-state to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology, the Channel News Asia reported, citing the ISD release.
The ISD stated that the teen was influenced by the 2019 terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in which 51 people were killed.
The teen had planned to carry out his attacks on March 15 this year, on the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks.
“He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence,” the ISD said.
He watched the livestream video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019, and read the manifesto of the attacker, Brenton Tarrant, a white supremacist, it said.
“He had also watched Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos, and came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam, and that Islam called on its followers to kill non-believers,” it said.
Before the attack in March 2019, Tarrant, an Australian, had put up online posts that contained anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and Right Wing extremist views. He had mounted a camera on his head, and live-streamed the attack. He received a life sentence in August 2020.
The ISD said it was “clear” from the teen’s attack plans and preparation that he was influenced by Tarrant’s actions and manifesto.
First, he planned to carry out his attacks on March 15 this year, the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks, it said.
He chose Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque as his targets because they were near his home, the ISD said, adding that he conducted online reconnaissance and research using Google Maps and Street View on both mosques to prepare for the attacks.
According to ISD at a media briefing, the teen initially considered An-Nur Mosque instead of Yusof Ishak Mosque, but the latter was deemed closer to Assyafaah Mosque. He planned his travel route, identified mosque entrances and where to park his vehicle, the ISD said. To prepare himself for the knife attack, the teen watched YouTube videos, it said, and was confident of hitting the arteries of his targets by randomly slashing at their neck and chest areas.
At the time of his arrest, the teen had found his choice of machete on Carousell and added it to his favourite listings, but had not bought it yet, it added.
According to the listing, the Smith & Wesson machete cost SGD 190. He had intended to save up for the purchase and was confident of doing so in time for the intended attacks, ISD said.
Similar to what Tarrant did, the 16-year-old student had intended to drive between the two mosques and planned to get hold of a vehicle for use during the attacks, according to the Channel report.
He was cognisant of the need to travel quickly between the attack sites, according to ISD, adding that he had intended to steal his father’s credit card to rent a BlueSG after identifying a car-sharing station near his home.
Before deciding on the machete as his attack weapon, the ISD said his “original plan” was to use an assault rifle similar to that used by Tarrant.
The teen managed to find a prospective seller via Telegram, but did not follow through after suspecting it was a scam when the seller asked for payment in Bitcoin.
He also checked the Arms and Explosives Licence requirements, and considered joining the Singapore Rifle Association.
“He nevertheless persisted to search for firearms online, and only gave up the idea when he realised that it would be difficult to get his hands on one given Singapore’s strict gun-control laws,” the ISD said.
The teen also explored making a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) bomb, and setting fire to the mosques using gasoline.
“He eventually dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns,” ISD said.
In further imitation of Tarrant, ISD said the teen had prepared two documents that he wanted to disseminate prior to his attacks. The first was a message to the people of France, which he drafted after the attack against Christians in a church in Nice in October last year.
The second document, which ISD said was still unfinished when he was arrested, was a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam and his belief that “violence should never be solved with peace”.
The ISD said the detailed planning and preparation attested to the teen’s determination to follow through with his attack plan.
Speaking to reporters, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said it was “quite chilling” to hear the teen saying this to ISD officers. “He went in fully prepared, knowing that he is going to die, and he was prepared to die,” he added.
According to ISD, investigations so far indicate that the youth had acted alone, with no indication that he tried to influence anyone with his extreme outlook or involve others in his attack plans.
The agency added that it received intelligence last November about a Singapore-based individual who wanted to attack Muslims in Singapore. The teen was arrested under the ISA on November 26 and issued with a detention order on December 23.