By Kirsten Han
SINGAPORE (AA) – Eight Bangladeshi migrant workers have been detained in Singapore under the Internal Security Act for alleged radical activity and the intention to set up an Islamic State in Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement Tuesday that the men, all of whom worked in the construction or marine industries in Singapore, had been part of a group its alleged ringleader, 31-year-old Rahman Mizanur, called the “Islamic State of Bangladesh”, or ISB.
All eight were detained in April, and still remain in custody.
The ministry has claimed that the men had initially intended to travel to Syria to fight for Daesh, but eventually decided to focus on overthrowing the Bangladesh government after they decided that it would be difficult to make their way to the Middle East.
Their plan, according to Singapore’s home affairs ministry, was to “establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh and bring it under ISIS’ [Daesh] self-declared caliphate”.
The ministry said that it had found a document titled “We Need for Jihad Fight” listing potential government and military officials identified as targets, along with other materials on building weapons and bombs, and other “radical material” linked to Daesh or Al-Qaeda.
According to the ministry, the group had also managed to raise some funds to purchase firearms for their plans.
The money has since been seized, and the ministry says that some of the detained men could be liable for prosecution for terrorism financing.
All the men are still being investigated for their activities in Singapore, although the ministry added that there was no sign that Singapore had been selected as a target.
The ministry added that another five Bangladeshi nationals had also been investigated under the Internal Security Act.
Although they were found not to have been members of ISB, they were nevertheless found to have possessed or proliferated jihadi-related materials, or supported the use of armed violence for religious causes.
They have since been repatriated to their home country.
“The Singapore Government takes a very serious view of any form of support for terrorism. Any person, foreigner or otherwise, who engages in any activity that is inimical to Singapore’s national security and racial and religious harmony will be firmly dealt with under the law,” said the ministry in its statement.
The Internal Security Act grants the Minister of Home Affairs the power to carry out preventive detention for national security or public order.
The legislation itself is a matter of some controversy in Singapore, as historians and members of civil society have asserted that it was used to suppress legitimate opposition and activism in the country.
In 1987, over 20 Roman Catholic Church activists, social workers and professionals were detained without trial after the government accused them of having been part of a Marxist Conspiracy to overthrow the democratically elected government and establish a Marxist state in Singapore.