Singapore arrests serviceman for planning knife attack on Jews

Gurdip Singh
·4-min read

Singapore, Mar 10 (PTI) Singapore has detained a full-time national serviceman (NSF) for planning to carry out a knife attack against Jews at a local synogogue, according to a media report on Wednesday.

Singaporean Amirull Ali, 20, had also made plans to travel to Gaza, Palestine, to join the military wing of Hamas in its fight against Israel, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said in a news release, Channel News Asia reported.

Amirull was self-radicalised with a deep hatred for Israel after being convinced that Palestinians were being oppressed in the Israel-Palestine conflict, the ISD said.

He was arrested on February 5 while he was an NSF, a compulsory military service for young Singaporeans in the Singapore Armed Forces. A detention order under the Internal Security Act (ISA) was issued against him on March 5.

This is the second reported case this year involving a young person held under the ISA. In January, it was revealed that a 16-year-old student had been detained for planning to attack two mosques in Woodlands in northern Singapore.

Amirull posed an “imminent security threat to Singapore”, said the ISD.

He had planned to attack the Maghain Aboth Synagogue on a Saturday after the Jewish congregational prayers, with a goal to kill three Jewish men, the ISD said. He later considered carrying out the attack on December 25 last year.

“He had targeted the males on the assumption that they would have served national service in Israel and hence carried out alleged atrocities against the Palestinians,” ISD said.

After deciding to use a knife for the attack, Amirull downloaded an image of the human vascular system to study how he can inflict “a quick death from massive bleeding”, said ISD, adding that he made a replica knife to practise stabbing motions and grip techniques at home.

Between August and early October 2019, he made at least two reconnaissance trips to the synagogue and identified a spot to ambush his victims as they exit the place of worship.

Amirull eventually shelved his attack plans as he was concerned about not dying as a martyr if he was arrested and sentenced to death, ISD said.

“The Ministry of Defence had alerted ISD that Amirull could have been radicalised by extremist ideologies,” the agency said. “ISD’s subsequent investigations confirmed that he was self-radicalised.” Amirull’s interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict started sometime in 2014 after watching a video that showed Palestinian civilians being bombed by Israeli fighter jets, ISD said.

“His subsequent online research into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict convinced him that Israel was oppressing Palestinians and also deepened his hatred for Israel,” it added.

Amirull’s support for the HAMAS military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (AQB), began in 2015 after he read a book that glorified the group’s fight for Palestinian rights.

In 2018, Amirull discussed with a foreign contact his intention to travel to Palestine and join AQB. The contact encouraged him to do so, telling him that he would become a martyr if he died fighting the “enemies of Islam on the battlefield”, ISD said.

The foreign contact was a 'casual acquaintance' of Amirull and is currently not in Singapore, said ISD. 'Apart from Amirull, he is not known to have influenced any other individuals in Singapore with his radical views,' it added.

Between mid-2018 and 2020, Amirull prepared to travel to Gaza and take up arms alongside AQB.

He researched travel routes, intending to fly to Cairo before reaching Gaza, and practised how to handle an assault rifle using a self-made AK-47 replica.

“He was focused on the AK-47 as he believed that he would be issued one by AQB based on what he had read about the group,” ISD said.

Meanwhile, a Singaporean man detained under the ISA two years ago for taking part in the Yemen civil war has been released and placed under a restriction order (RO), the ISD said.

Sheik Heikel Khalid Bafana, 49, had volunteered to take up arms and worked as a paid agent for a “foreign power” by collecting intelligence on Yemen.

He was placed under the RO in March, ISD said.

Individuals on RO cannot travel out of Singapore or change addresses or jobs without approval. They cannot issue public statements, address public meetings or print, distribute or contribute to any publication without approval.

The ISD usually releases detainees under the ISA and issues them with ROs after they show good progress in rehabilitation, and are assessed to no longer pose a security threat requiring preventive detention.

Heikel, who was in Yemen from 2008 to 2019, ran a consultancy there that advised foreign companies on security risks and business opportunities. He had stayed on in the country even as the security situation deteriorated and Singaporeans were evacuated.

Heikel came to the ISD's attention while he was still in Yemen, after he made social media posts suggesting that he was involved in the armed conflict there. This included a photograph of himself in military gear with a submachine gun.

He was arrested under the ISA after he returned to Singapore on February 5, 2019. PTI GS PMS PMS