Updated: 07/09/2014 22:03

Singaporeans among 12,000 foreigners involved in conflict in Syria

Singaporeans among 12,000 foreigners involved in conflict in Syria

Several Singaporeans are among the some 12,000 foreigners who've joined the conflict in Syria. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean who revealed this in Parliament today - says many of them joined terrorist groups at the forefront of the violence. 

These include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has renamed itself the Islamic State. 

Mr Teo says Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a naturalised Singapore citizen from India, is among the handful of Singaporeans who've done so. 

He brought his wife and three children then aged between 2 and 11 with him. 

Another female Singaporean is believed to have gone to Syria with her foreign husband and two teenaged children. 

Mr Teo says the whole family either joined the terrorist groups to fight, or provided aid and support to the fighters. 

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. 

They include Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader, the self-radicalised lawyer detained under the Internal Security Act or ISA from 2007 to 2010. 

He was 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. 

Another was Zakaria Rosdan, who tried to establish contact with foreign militant groups online to do likewise.

A third Singaporean, Khairul Sofri bin Osman, with a similar interest, had also abetted Zakaria in his plans. 

Both were issued with Restriction Orders under the ISA last December. 

Others are under investigation. 

DPM Teo says these foreign fighters pose a security concern for many countries including Singapore. 

The threat is magnified if these returnee fighters are Singaporean. 

Mr Teo says any Singaporean who assists 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. 

They would thus pose a real threat to Singapore's national security. 

DPM Teo says the Syrian conflict could also potentially damage social cohesion in Singapore. 

He says 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 our communities. 

This was the situation in the aftermath of the Sep 11, 2001 attacks in the US, and the detention of the Singapore JI members shortly thereafter in Jan 2002.

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