Eight radicalised Bangladeshi workers detained under Internal Security Act

The Internal Security Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) detained eight radicalised Bangladeshi nationals on 26 April under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The eight men were members of a clandestine group known as Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB).

On 3 May, the MHA released the names of the eight men detained. Of the eight men, one was an S-Pass holder for mid-level skilled workers while the seven others were Work Permit holders. According to the MHA, they were all employed in the local construction and marine industries.

S-Pass holder Rahman Mizanur, 31, had founded the ISB in March 2016. Along with the other members, they had initially planned to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as foreign fighters.

However, after deeming it difficult to travel to Syria, the ISB instead turned to making plans to return to Bangladesh to overthrow the government there by force.

The ISB had identified numerous individuals as possible targets, including ministers, police and media personnel in Bangladesh. Names of possible targets were recovered by MHA in a document titled “We Need for Jihad Fight” found on ISB founder Rahman Mizanur.

Other documents seized from him include instructions for weapons and bomb making, as well as ISIS and Al-Qaeda radical material which he used for ISB recruitment efforts since January 2016.

Money raised by ISB members was also seized by the MHA. They had raised the money with the objective to purchase firearms to carry out their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh.

The MHA reported that eventually, the ISB had hoped to establish an Islamic State in Bangladesh.

“ISB poses a security concern to Singapore because of its support for ISIS and its readiness to resort to the use of violence overseas,” the MHA said in a statement. “Rahman Mizanur has said he would carry out an attack anywhere if he was instructed by ISIS to do so, though there are no specific indications that Singapore had as yet been selected as a target.”

Additionally, five other Bangladeshi nationals were arrested in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 3 May after they were repatriated from Singapore under the Internal Security Act. Although they were no found to be involved with the ISB after investigations, they had, however, possessed jihadi-related materials and were in support of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause.

Nevertheless, non-governmental organisation Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) still highlighted that “the majority of migrant workers working here in Singapore are peace-loving and law-aiding.”

Chairman of the MWC Yeo Guat Kwang said in a Facebook post on 3 May that the MWC would continue to work closely with foreign workers, advising them to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to either the MWC or to the relevant authorities.

MHA notes that there is no indication that this group of Bangladeshi nationals are also members of the Bangladeshi radical religious group who were arrested last year. Some of them are, however, personally acquainted with a few members of the radical religious group because they chanced upon one another in Singapore.  The Bangladeshi nationals in both incidents were not known to have targeted Singapore at the time of their arrests.

Earlier last year between 16 November and 1 December, The Internal Security Department arrested 27 male Bangladeshi nationals who were working in the local construction industry under the ISA.

26 of them have been repatriated to Bangladesh where the authorities have been informed of the circumstances of their repatriation. The remaining Bangladeshi national is currently serving a jail sentence for attempting to leave Singapore via illegal and clandestine means after learning about the arrests of his fellow group members. He will be repatriated to Bangladesh upon completion of his sentence.

Dhaka police confirmed they had arrested all of the deportees when they first arrived home on 21 December. The authorities said that some were released after finding no evidence against them, but continued to detain 14 after uncovering links to Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a group that has been blamed for attacks on secular bloggers.