The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is again in the spotlight after claiming responsibility for the fighting in a church in eastern Congo on January 16, 2023. Authorities said the attack killed at least 14 people.
ISIS, also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims. It was inspired by al-Qaida but later was publicly expelled, and became a group that causes instability and problems in the Middle East. With a pattern of recruiting massive members through social media and the lure of the sacred idea of “jihad”, ISIS has managed to recruit volunteers from many countries, including countries in the Southeast Asian region in a short period of time.
In September 2022, the Islamic State group called on the Muslims in Singapore – along with those in other Asian countries – to come forward and join the terror group. According to a report published by the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on January 3, 2023. The 116-page report pointed out that ISD had assessed the threat from “Islamist extremism and terrorism”, both from organized groups based overseas and self-radicalized lone actors based in Singapore have remained high in 2022.
In a section focused on Singapore, RSIS analysts Kalicharan Veera Singam and Abigail Leong described the Internet as continuing to play a “pivotal” role in sustaining the momentum of the global jihadist movement. They wrote that the ‘cyber jihad’, waged on a borderless virtual battlefield, is a potential security minefield in a highly digitally connected society like Singapore.
Islam is a faith in Singapore where Muslims make about 15% of the total population in the country. However, the echoes of ISIS in Singapore are very strong. At the end of 2021, the Singapore court sentenced a businessman, Mohamed Kazali Salleh to prison for 3 years and 10 months for financing acts of terrorism carried out by ISIS.
Based on the results of the investigation, Kazali met a Malaysian citizen named Wan Mohd Aquil Wan Zainal Abidin alias Akel Zainal in 2009. The two of them then became friends. Akel revealed to Kazali that he supports extremist ideology, and intends to go to Syria to become an ISIS militant. The report cited that Kazali gave Akel abouts 1,000 Singapore dollars on three occasions.
On January 24, 2023, it was reported in Indonesia that the National Police’s Detachment (Densus) 88 Anti-Terror Team arrested suspected terrorists in Sleman, Special Region (DIY). Densus 88 revealed that AW, a suspected terrorist who was arrested, had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Head of Densus 88 Kombes, Aswin Siregar said that AW is an ISIS sympathizer who later pledged allegiance to ISIS. AW was said to have actively posted ISIS propaganda pictures and videos on social media. AW also often posts provocative calls for acts of terror and reportedly have a desire to carry out acts of terror using explosives.