An Indian-origin Singaporean along with several of the country’s nationals, is part of some 12,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war, the government said on Wednesday.
Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali (37), a naturalised citizen from India, is among the handful of Singaporeans who has taken his wife and three children aged between 2-11 with him to Syria, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean told the parliament.
Another female Singaporean is believed to have gone to Syria with her foreigner husband and two teenage children, The Strait Times quoted Teo as saying. “The whole family is taking part in the conflict in various ways, either joining the terrorist groups to fight, or providing aid and support to the fighters,” he said.
Several Singaporeans, who intended to travel to Syria or other conflict zones to engage in the jihadist violence, were detected before they could proceed with their plans.
These include Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader, the self-radicalised lawyer detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) from 2007 to 2010 and re-detained in October 2012 when he was found to have been looking for ways to travel to places like Syria to engage in armed jihad.
Among others was Zakaria Rosdan, who tried to establish contact with foreign militant groups online to do likewise. Khairul Sofri bin Osman, with a similar interest, had also abetted Zakaria in his plans. Both, Zakaria and Khairul, were issued with Restriction Orders under the ISA last December.
Others are under investigation, Teo said, pointing out that these foreign fighters pose a security concern for many countries including Singapore.
He asserted that any citizen assisting violent organisations like the Al-Nusra Front or any other violent group, would have demonstrated a dangerous tendency to support, or resort to violence to pursue a political or ideological cause, would thus pose a real threat to Singapore’s national security.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Syrian conflict could also potentially damage social cohesion in the country. He said if more Singaporeans are discovered to have gone to fight or support the fighting in Syria, or to harbour intentions of doing so, it may cause disquiet on the ground, and give rise to mistrust and tension between the communities.
More than 1,62,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011. The groups involved include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has renamed itself the Islamic State (ISIS).