Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen and Suderman bin Samikin, both Singaporeans, were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in May and July 2019 respectively as investigations established that they were radicalised and had harboured the intention to make their way to Syria to join the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
This was revealed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) In a press release on Thursday (25 July).
The ministry stated that the two were detained in two separate cases.
According to MHA, Haja, a 36-year-old licensed money-changer, was a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim (Zahran). Zahran is said to have been identified by the Sri Lankan authorities as the mastermind and one of the suicide bombers involved in the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019 which killed more than 250 people and injured 500 others.
Since 2011, Haja listened to Zahran’s online religious lectures and regularly contacted him for religious guidance. Between May 2015 and October 2016, Haja made three trips to Sri Lanka to visit Zahran. He also donated funds to Zahran and his group, the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ).
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the NTJ and another group set up by Zahran, Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem fi Seylani (JMI), for the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka. Both NTJ and JMI have since been banned in Sri Lanka.
However, the ministry noted that investigations did not surface any indication that Haja was involved in, or had prior knowledge of, the 21 April 2019 terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.
MHA further added that Haja developed an interest in ISIS back in 2013 when he came across news of the terrorist group online. He supported ISIS’s so-called caliphate and its violent cause. He also searched online for video-clips of ISIS-linked atrocities and terrorist attacks, including ISIS’s beheading videos, and recordings of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France in November 2015.
Haja then allegedly harboured a desire to undertake armed jihad in Syria. From 2015, he conducted extensive research online in relation to his plan to migrate to Syria to join ISIS but eventually decided against travelling to Syria as he feared he would be killed or injured there. His support for ISIS, however, continued, including at the point when he was arrested on May 2019.
While Suderman, a 47-year-old former delivery assistant, became radicalised after he encountered lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki (the deceased Al-Qaeda ideologue) and ISIS’s propaganda sometime in 2013 while searching online for information on the Syrian conflict.
The ministry noted that he soon bought into ISIS’s violent ideology and by February 2014, was prepared to take up arms to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, in the belief that he would be a martyr if he died while doing so.
In April 2014, Suderman joined a pro-ISIS Facebook group that was reportedly created by an ISIS fighter based in Syria. He actively sought advice on how to join ISIS and was directed to online sources where he learnt about travel routes to Syria. He also became acquainted with foreign pro-ISIS elements through the Facebook group. He was prepared to help when two of them wanted to visit Singapore to purchase tactical apparel for their participation in the armed conflict in Syria.
However, the duo’s visit did not materialise. Suderman also offered one of the two pro-ISIS contacts financial assistance to undertake armed violence in Syria. In turn, the duo invited Suderman to join an overseas pro-ISIS group in which they were involved.
From July 2014 to June 2019, Suderman was in prison for drug consumption. While he was in prison, he continued to harbour intentions to join ISIS. He was arrested under the ISA upon his release.