Teen, 18, detained under ISA for planning violent attacks on 'disbelievers'

Self-radicalised by ISIS online propaganda, he had planned to make Coney Island an Islamic caliphate in Singapore

Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor had taken photos of himself in ski mask and with a knife, and pinned a caliphate flag on a tree at Coney Island. (PHOTOS: Internal Security Department)
Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor had taken photos of himself in ski mask and with a knife, and pinned a caliphate flag on a tree at Coney Island. (PHOTOS: Internal Security Department)

SINGAPORE — An 18-year-old student was detained in Singapore last December under the Internal Security Act (ISA), after he had made plans to undertake armed violence in Singapore and overseas.

The Internal Security Department (ISD) said in a media release on Wednesday (1 February) that Muhammad Irfan Danyal Mohamad Nor was self-radicalised by online propaganda from terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since 2020.

He had formulated at least three attack plans against targets in Singapore. They included ambushing, stabbing and killing "disbelievers" in dark alleys; carrying out a mass-casualty attack against the Amoy Quee Camp; and considering a bomb attack on Keramat Habib Noh at Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque.

At the time of his arrest, Irfan’s attack plans against Amoy Quee Camp and Keramat Habib Noh had not progressed beyond the ideation stage.

Developed interest and admiration for ISIS fighters

Irfan started down the path of radicalisation after coming across YouTube videos by foreign extremist preacher Zakir Naik. He also participated in discussions on social media platforms, where he was exposed to ISIS propaganda.

ISD said in the media release that he developed an interest in ISIS and admiration for the mujahideen (fighters) featured in jihadist videos. By late 2021, he started taking photos of himself in a ski mask, mimicking the ISIS fighters he had seen online.

Irfan had also wanted to establish an Islamic caliphate in Singapore, and recruit Muslims to join the caliphate. On 9 August last year, he planted a self-made flag in Coney Island, which he designed based on the flag of the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

He claimed that the act symbolised the start of his own caliphate on Singapore’s National Day, and uploaded pictures of the flag on his social media account, to encourage like-minded individuals to join his caliphate, which he named the “Islamic State of Singhafura”.

Planned to film his pledge of alliance

By October last year, Irfan was convinced of ISIS’s legitimacy, and decided to travel to Nigeria to undertake armed violence with the Islamic State in West Africa Province, as he believed that ISWAP was ISIS’s strongest affiliate.

ISD said that he also saw Iraq, Syria or Marawi in southern Philippines as alternative destinations for armed violence if he was unable to join ISWAP. He made online searches for flights from Singapore to these locations, and planned to pursue his travel plans to the conflict zones after he had saved up sufficient funds.

In the meantime, Irfan planned to demonstrate his support for ISIS by filming a video of himself taking the bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to then-ISIS leader, Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.

He had planned to film his bai’ah at Coney Island on the weekend of 12 to 13 November last year, wearing his National Cadet Corps (NCC) uniform and a self-made ISIS flag and headband, and carrying a toy rifle, to mimic ISIS fighters he had seen in online ISIS propaganda.

He also intended to declare Coney Island an ISIS wilayat (province), in the hope that it would be recognised by ISIS as an official ISIS affiliate. He planned to upload his video to various social media platforms to recruit an ISIS army of between 100 and 500 fighters, to assist him in conducting attacks in Singapore.

Arrested days before bai'ah filming

ISD’s investigation to-date indicates that Irfan acted alone, and there is no indication that he was successful in recruiting or radicalising others. His family members were not aware of his attack plans, nor his intention to undertake armed violence overseas.

He was arrested a few days before he would have filmed his bai’ah to ISIS and declared Coney Island an ISIS wilayat. ISD said its assessment was that he had become an imminent security threat, and he was detained under the ISA.

"Irfan’s case highlights the continuing appeal of ISIS’s violent ideology, sustained through its online propaganda efforts and network of global affiliates," ISD said in the media release.

"The case also underscores the trend of youth radicalisation seen in recent years, and the threat of lone-actor attacks against soft targets, using simple, easily accessible weapons. In the last two years, ISD has detained three self-radicalised youths who had planned to carry out attacks in Singapore."

ISD said that those who know or suspect that a person has been radicalised should contact its Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626473.

Nine people aged under 21 detained under ISA since 2015: Shanmugam

Addressing Irfan's detention by the ISD, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said nine people under the age of 21 have been dealt with under the ISA since 2015, with six of them detained and three handed restriction orders.

"If (Irfan) had carried out any of (his attack) plans, particularly the knife attack or the bombings, you can imagine that it would have been very damaging – a loss of lives, distrust and animosity in our community. So, those are quite serious," he told reporters during a doorstop interview at Masjid Khalid in Joo Chiat Road.

Mr Shanmugam expressed concern over the trend of young people becoming self-radicalised. He revealed that three recent cases that picked up by the ISD were all young boys, radicalised online.

Nonetheless, he credited the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore for its strong and clear stance against violence, which contributed to the country's relatively low numbers of such detainees.

"We don’t like the numbers - nine since 2015 - but compared to other countries, it is very small," he said.

"I think most people in Singapore understand whatever your religion, you don't go towards a path of violence. Religion teaches peace. You can live in harmony. Both social harmony, as well as religious harmony, is possible and Singapore is a daily reminder of the benefits of that and the possibilities of that."

Mr Shanmugam said that most of nine youths dealt by the ISA have made "good progress" in their rehabilitation, noting that one was released from detention in January last year.

Another four have been reintegrated back into society and are no longer under any kind of internal security order.

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