A Singaporean man who gave financial support to a Syria-based ISIS militant from Malaysia has been detained under the city-state’s tough internal security laws, authorities said Friday.
The arrest highlights the continued influence of Southeast Asian militants fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria in radicalizing people back home, even as the militants face defeat in the Middle East.
Singaporean businessman Mohamed Kazali bin Salleh, 48, is suspected of being a “close associate” of Mohamad Aquil bin Wan Zainal Abidin, believed to be the most senior Malaysian ISIS fighter in Syria, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Kazali, who had been living in the Malaysian state of Johor next to Singapore, paid for the militant’s trip to Syria in late 2013 to fight with ISIS and continued to support him financially, the ministry said.
In return, Aquil “kept him updated on his exploits on the battlefield,” it said. Kazali became increasingly radicalized over time and pledged allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
He shared news of Aquil’s activities in Syria on social media to inspire others to travel there and was also prepared to finance them.
In December, he received instructions from Aquil to carry out an attack in Johor but he did not follow through for fear of being arrested, MHA said.
Kazali was arrested by Malaysian authorities in December and deported to Singapore, where he is being held under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial for up to two years.
A second person was also detained under the act -- Hazim Syahmi bin Mahfoot, a 28-year-old car exporter who was influenced by Kazali’s radical views and was convinced by him to carry out attacks against ISIS’s perceived enemies.
He took an oath to be “loyal and obedient to Kazali even if it involved carrying out attacks and killing others,” although he did not participate in any acts of violence, authorities said.