SINGAPORE: A 16-year-old has been arrested in Singapore for intending to attack two mosques which authorities said were inspired by the killing of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019.
The boy, an unnamed Christian of Indian ethnicity, is the youngest person to be detained under Singapore’s Internal Security Act, which allows authorities to detain anyone seen as a threat to security for up to two years.
“He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence,” a statement from the Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs said. “He watched the livestreamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March, 2019, and read the manifesto of the Christchurch attacker, Brenton Tarrant.”
He had purchased a tactical vest online and had intended to also buy a machete at the time of his arrest in December, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said in a statement on Wednesday.
He had conducted reconnaissance of the mosques near his home, intended to livestream his attack and prepared statements that referenced Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant who is serving life imprisonment for killing 51 Muslim worshippers and injuring dozens of others.
“He could only foresee two outcomes to his plan: that he is arrested before he is able to carry out the attacks, or he executes the plan and is thereafter killed by the Police,” the ISD said, adding he planned to carry out the attack on the anniversary of the Christchurch killings.
The Singapore teenager planned to target Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque with a machete on March 15 — the anniversary of the Christchurch massacre — authorities said. “Like Tarrant, the youth intended to drive between the two attack sites, and therefore devised a plan to procure a vehicle to use during the attack,” the statement said.
It was not immediately clear for how long the 16-year-old would be detained. Home Minister K. Shanmugam said that he would be given psychological counselling and will be able to continue his education while in detention but may not face criminal charges.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said it was “concerned and saddened” by the alleged plot. “We condemn all acts of terror and violence, which have no place in any religion. These acts will tear communities apart,” it said in a statement.
“This is a grim reminder of the ever presence of the threat of online radicalisation, and together with social media pervading all of our lives, it brings the danger of extremist ideologies into our homes.” The council added that it was an “isolated incident” and that they were grateful security agencies were able to “detect it early”.
The Muslim community in Singapore represents around 14 percent of the country’s population. The National Council of Churches of Singapore said it was “deeply saddened” that a young person who attended church had planned the attacks.
“We totally reject any ideology — even if they should come fictitiously under the label ‘Christian’ — that promotes or incites violence against another, especially if they are of a different religious community,” it said in a statement. “There is no animosity between our communities, and that we remain committed to defeating hatred and violence.”