On 11 January 2002 evening, TV channels revealed the details of the ISA arrests - the names of the 15 detainees, the investigation report, 2 years detention orders for 13, and 2 persons have been released on Restriction Orders on 6 Jan 2002. The 15 were arrested under the ISA for alleged terrorists activities and connections. Think Centre hopes the 13 detainees are safe, in good health and are not deprived of their sleep or their basic necessities as human beings. Read on to know the story.
SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT PRESS STATEMENT ON ISA ARRESTS
Thirteen of the 15 persons arrested by the ISD in Dec 2001 for terrorism-related activities have been served with Orders of Detention for two years under Section 8(1)(a) of the Internal Security Act on 6 Jan 2002. They are:
Haji Ibrahim b Haji Maidin, 51, condominium manager;
Mohamad Anuar bin Margono, 31, driver;
Mohamed Khalim bin Jaffar, 39, printer;
Ja'afar bin Mistooki, 40, despatch driver;
Faiz bin Abu Bakar Bafana, 39, businessman;
Fathi Abu Bakar Bafana, 36, businessman;
Mohamed Ellias s/o Mohamed Khan, 29, manager;
Mohamed Nazir bin Mohmmed Uthman, 27, ship traffic assistant;
Adnan bin Musa, 36, technician;
Halim bin Hussain, 41, supervisor;
Hashim bin Abas, 40, service engineer;
Andrew Gerard @ Ali Ridhaa bin Abdullah, 34, technician
Othman bin Mohamed, 42, supervisor
The other two persons have been released on Restriction Orders on 6 Jan 2002.
Eight of those detained are confirmed at this point, to have gone to Afghanistan for training in Al-Qaeda training camps. Preparations locally for their Afghanistan stint included religious and physical training which were conducted in Negri Sembilan, Malaysia. Covert arrangements for their entry into Afghanistan from Pakistan were made by their leader in Malaysia, Hambali @ Nurjaman @ Riduan Isamuddin, a Malaysian permanent resident of Indonesian nationality. These arrangements included false documentation to show that they had been accepted by a local religious school in Pakistan for religious studies. This provided the cover to account to their families and employers for their absence from Singapore for periods between three to six months. The men travelled by road to Kuala Lumpur for flights to Karachi, Pakistan. On arrival in Pakistan, they were moved to a safehouse within the country where they waited to be transported overland in batches with other trainees from the region onwards into Afghanistan via several places including Peshawar and Quetta. Training in the Al-Qaeda camps included use of AK47s and mortars, and study of military tactics. One of the Singaporeans had gone to Afghanistan for training on three separate occasions between 1991 and 2000. Among the documents recovered from IT forensic investigation of Khalim Jaffar's encrypted diskette, was a letter nominating Mohd Ellias and Mohd Nazir for special training in one of three areas, viz ambush/assassination, sniper or "field engineering", ie bomb construction.
All the 13 men detained are members of the clandestine organisation, "Jemaah Islamiyah" (JI or Islamic group). The JI organisation in Singapore is part of a larger JI network with cells in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Singapore network reports to a Malaysia-based leadership structure called a regional "shura" (or consultative council). This is essentially headed by Hambali, following the arrest and detention of Mohd Iqbal A Rahman @ Abu Jibril by Malaysian authorities in Jun2001. Hambali is presently at large and is wanted for arrest by the Indonesian and Malaysian police.
The JI organisation in Singapore is headed by a leader (with the title "Qoaid wakalah") and is organised into various functional cells or "fiahs". These included cells for fund raising, religious work, security and operations. Ibrahim Maidin was the leader of the JI in Singapore and Faiz bin Abu Bakar Bafana was a leading figure in the JI's regional "shura". The rest of those detained were mostly members of the security unit or of one of the three operations cells identified by ISD so far. The operations "fiahs" are the cells assigned for terrorist support or terrorism-related activities.
JI's terrorism-linked activities began long before the 11 Sep 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. The leader of the JI, Ibrahim Maidin, had gone to Afghanistan for military training in 1993. The surveillance activities of the first JI cell in support of terrorist targeting began as early as 1997.
Investigations have not surfaced any links between the Singaporean JI members detained and other registered local Muslim organisations. They had been recruited into the JI when they were part of Ibrahim Maidin's religious classes, and were not known to be active members of any particular mosque. The group appeared to have generally kept away from mainstream organisations and their activities. They maintained tight operational secrecy, using code-names and code-words for communication.
All but one of those arrested were HDB dwellers. All had studied in national schools in Singapore. Six had completed full-time National Service in the SAF and were reservists. The group appeared to be dominated by foreign elements and subscribed to these elements' extremist ideology and its anti-American, anti-West agenda.
First Operations Cell ("Fiah")
The oldest operations cell calls itself "Fiah Ayub". This cell led by Khalim bin Jaffar is believed to have started exploring terrorist targeting in Singapore as early as 1997. They conducted target surveillance of locations which were frequented by Americans in Singapore.
The investigation so far has discovered two well-developed plans by this cell. The first plan was to target a regular shuttle bus service conveying what was expected to be US personnel between Sembawang Wharf and the Yishun MRT Station. Khalim made a detailed reconnaissance of the Yishun MRT Station. He prepared a videotape of the reconnaissance, with commentary in English by one of those detained, Hashim bin Abas. The videotape and some handwritten debriefing notes in Arabic, were later found in the rubble of an Al-Qaeda leader's house in Afghanistan.
The plan was apparently developed and ready for activation. Khalim briefed Al-Qaeda leaders on this plan when he went to Afghanistan for training between Aug 99 and Apr 2000. The Al-Qaeda leaders showed interest in the plan, but for reasons not known they did not subsequently pursue it.
The second developed plan appeared to be a bomb attack against US naval vessels along the northeast waters of Singapore between Changi and Pulau Tekong. Found among Khalim's possessions was a MINDEF map with markings indicating observation posts both in Singapore and Johor and a "kill zone" in the channel between Changi and Pulau Tekong.
Also found among Khalim's possessions was a list of over 200 US companies in Singapore. Three of them were highlighted as potential targets apparently because the office-bearers were regarded as fairly prominent members of the American community in Singapore. Other items included two tampered Singapore passports, 15 forged Malaysian and Philippines immigration stamps, night vision binoculars, literature on bomb-making and survival techniques.
Second Operations Cell ("Fiah")
The second operations cell calls itself "Fiah Musa". Members of the cell include Fathi Abu Bakar Bafana, Mohd Ellias, Mohd Nazir and Adnan bin Musa. In Apr 2001 they used Andrew Gerard, another JI member who was a technician in Singapore Technologies Aerospace (STA), to photograph Paya Lebar Airbase and the American aircraft there as a potential target for terrorist attack. Gerard was also directed to collect information on STA and Paya Lebar airbase facilities and on the movement of personnel. He took more than 50 digital photos of the airbase and aircraft as instructed and handed them over to the cell members. These photographs were recovered from the possessions of one of those detained, Khalim bin Jaffar.
In Sep/Oct 2001, the cell was approached by a mixed group of foreign elements to assist in a plan for terrorist bombing against specific targets in Singapore. These foreigners were known to the local cell members only by code-names. The link-up with the cell members with these foreigners was made by the ex-Singaporean detained, Faiz bin Abu Bakar Bafana. (Faiz is the brother of Fathi Abu Bakar Bafana and a member of the JI regional "shura".)
Two of the foreigners (one of Arab extraction calling himself "Sammy" and believed to be linked to the Al-Qaeda organisation; the other of Filipino or Indonesian extraction calling himself "Mike", was described as a trainer and bomb-maker with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) came to Singapore in Oct2001. Assisted by the cell members, they conducted surveillance of several establishments, including the US Embassy, the Australian High Commission, the British High Commission, the Israeli Embassy, commercial buildings where there are American companies and also the MINDEF Complex at Bukit Gombak. They video-recorded what they surveyed for use in their planning. A copy of the video-recording was found in the office of Fathi Abu Bakar Bafana.
"Sammy" and "Mike" who were the directing figures also informed the cell that they needed 21 tonnes of ammonium nitrate for construction of several truck bombs. As they already had 4 tonnes in Malaysia with Faiz bin Abu Bakar Bafana, they instructed the cell members to help procure 17 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. They also directed them to try and locate suitable warehouses for a secure site to construct truck bombs. Mohd Ellias subsequently attempted to purchase 17 tonnes of ammonium nitrate through a contact from a local vendor. Mohd Ellias was arrested by ISD before he could follow up and complete the transaction.
Third Operations Cell ("Fiah")
The third operations cell calls itself "Fiah Ismail". It was formed after the Sep 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. Members of the cell included Halim bin Hussain. They conducted some preliminary surveillance and observation of a few targets including US companies but stopped when they got wind of the ISD arrests.
Two Released on Restriction Orders
Two persons, Faizal Khan bin Gulam Sarwar, 34, and Mohd Agus bin Ahmad Selani, 34, among the 15 arrested by the ISD in Dec 2001 were released on 6 Jan 2002. They have been served with Restriction Orders under Section 8(1)(b) of the ISA with conditions prohibiting them to have any contact with any terrorist organisation, to prevent them from deeper and further involvement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Restriction Order, which is for a period of two years, will be reviewed annually.
Investigations disclose that they were not members of the clandestine organisation, "Jemaah Islamiyah". However, they donated funds they had collected to the MILF purportedly for its welfare organisations. Mohd Agus was found to have visited the training camp of the MILF in Mindanao in 1997 and 1999. Faizal visited the MILF camp in 1999. They were not known to have undergone any training at the terrorist camp.
Investigations are continuing. Several suspect operations cell members have fled the country and efforts are being made, in co-operation with the authorities of neighbouring countries, to locate them.