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ISIS ideology resonates in Southeast Asia, says Singapore minister

The minister expressed concern in comments that the latest spate of arrests in Malaysia shows that violent ISIS ideology continues to resonate in the region.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 12:10 IST

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Singapore: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ideology continues to resonate in the Southeast Asian region and is fuelled by a virtual network of supporters, Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam has warned.

“ISIS’ violent ideology continues to resonate in this region and is fuelled by a virtual network of supporters,” The Straits Times quoted the Minister as saying on Friday.

Shanmugam expressed concern in comments that the latest spate of arrests in Malaysia shows that violent ISIS ideology continues to resonate in the region.

While the authorities in Singapore will do their best to detect and prevent any terrorist attack here, Singaporeans need to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour, he underscored.

Shanmugam spoke to reporters four days after Malaysia’s Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced the arrest of eight people – six men and two women, aged 25 to 70 – over the past weekend, which thwarted possible threats against Malaysia’s leadership.

Preliminary investigations into the eight arrested for suspected links to extremist ideologies had shown the existence of threats against Malaysia’s King, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and other VIPs, said Saifuddin on June 24.

The suspects came from various occupational and economic backgrounds and included housewives, retirees and professionals.

Noting that the targets were top Malaysian leaders, Shanmugam said: “The ultimate aim of the terrorists was to topple the Malaysian government.”

“Extremist narratives have radicalised many individuals, including here in Singapore. As long as these ideologies persist, they will continue to inspire attacks,” the Singapore daily quoted Shanmugam as saying.

Following the May 17 pre-dawn attack on the Ulu Tiram police station in Johor that left two police personnel dead and another injured, Malaysian police arrested five family members of the attacker, as well as at least 15 other pro-ISIS suspects in a series of operations.

Asked if his assessment of Singapore’s terror threat has shifted given the latest developments, Shanmugam said the Internal Security Department (ISD) makes regular assessments, and while the arrests are something to be factored in, “I won’t say it comes as a big shock”.

“If you look around the region, ISIS ideology is prevalent in many countries, and this must be seen in that context,” he added.

But what happens in Malaysia will have an impact on Singapore’s security landscape, given the two countries’ proximity to one another, he added.

He reiterated Singapore’s zero-tolerance policy towards terrorist threats, noting that 50 self-radicalised individuals – 38 Singaporeans and 12 foreigners – have been issued with Internal Security Act orders since 2015.

“We move in very early. We don’t wait for the threat to materialise, or about to materialise, and we don’t take chances,” the Singapore minister said.

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Published 28 June 2024, 12:10 IST

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