In a statement released on Monday (23 September), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that three domestic workers originally from Indonesia who have worked in Singapore for between six and 13 years, have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
Arrested last month, the trio – Anindia Afiyantari, 33, Retno Hernayani, 36, and Turmini, 31, are being investigated for terrorism-financing activities.
They are the first foreign domestic workers who have been issued detention orders under ISA in Singapore. The domestic helpers have been prepared to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) and were collecting support for the terrorist group.
MHA explained that the three of them were radicalised in 2018 after they looked at Isis-related material online. They also signed up for pro-Isis social-media chat groups and channels, and were attracted to violent visuals like Isis’ beheading videos and bomb attacks.
In fact, they believed that the terrorist group was fighting for Islam and their act of using brutality against “infidels” was justified.
“They were drawn to the violent visuals disseminated on these platforms, such as ISIS’s (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) bomb attacks and beheading videos, as well as recycled propaganda on (Islamic State’s) past victories in the battlefield,” MHA said.
If that’s not all, they were also influenced by online sermons conducted by Indonesian radical preachers, the ministry noted.
Besides these three, another Indonesian domestic helper was also arrested, although she was not found to be radicalised. She knows about the trio’s radicalised ways but did not report them to the authorities. It is revealed that she has been repatriated to Indonesia.
How they met
The three radicalised Indonesian domestic workers got to know each other around the time when they were becoming radicalised in 2018.
Anindia and Retno were first introduced at a social gathering in Singapore on their off days, while Turmini got to know them through social media.
“Over time, they developed a network of pro-militant foreign online contacts, including ‘online boyfriends’ who share their pro-ISIS ideology,” MHA noted.
They became strong supporters of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), an Isis-affiliated terrorist group in Indonesia.
They were so radicalised that both Anindia and Retno wanted to make their way to Syria and join Islamic State. In fact, Anindia was all set to take up arms for the terrorist group in Syria as well as become a suicide bomber, while Retno had the desire to live with other Islamic State fighters in Syria and be part of the conflict there.
The two of them were also persuaded by their online contacts to move to southern Philippines, Afghanistan or Africa and join other pro-Islamic State groups in these countries.
MHA said that Retno “believed that Muslim were duty-bound to travel to other conflict zones, apart from Syria, such as Palestine and Kashmir, to fight against ‘the enemies of Islam’”.
Additionally, all the three individuals “actively galvanised” support online for Islamic State, with each of them having a few social media accounts to post pro-Islamic State information. They also donated money to organisations outside of Singapore for terrorism-related purposes like JAD. Turmini, particularly, believed that the funds she sent to the groups would “earn her a place in paradise”, said MHA.
Singapore faces “persistent” terrorist threat
Since 2015, Singapore has found 19 radicalised foreign domestic workers, and all of them have been repatriated, except for Anindia, Retno and Turmini as they are still being investigated.
“None were found to have had plans to carry out acts of violence in Singapore, but their radicalisation and association with terrorists overseas had rendered them a security threat to Singapore,” MHA explained.
Moreover, the Ministry said that Singapore faces a “persistent” terror threat, fuelled by deadly terrorist groups like Isis.
“The fact that all three individuals in the present case were radicalised in 2018, at a time when Isis’ physical territory was already significantly diminished, highlights the enduring appeal of Isis’ violent ideology,” it stated.
MHA also stressed that the Government looks seriously at any kind of support for terrorism in Singapore, either from Singaporeans or foreigners.
“The public should exercise caution against viewing radical material online, including sermons by extremist preachers,” the Ministry noted.
It added that the community plays an important role in fighting terrorism, as their move to report potentially radicalised individual to the authorities allow them to investigate and put a stop at the issue.