Wednesday, January 27, 2021

16-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA for planning terrorist attacks on two mosques, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

16-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA for planning terrorist attacks on two mosques, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

16-year-old Singaporean detained under ISA for planning terrorist attacks on two mosques

SINGAPORE - A 16-year-old Singaporean student has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for planning to attack two mosques and kill worshippers in Singapore on March 15 this year - the second anniversary of the Christchurch terror attacks.

A Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, he is the first detainee to be influenced by far-right extremist ideology and the youngest person detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities to date, said the Internal Security Department (ISD) on Wednesday (Jan 27).

The secondary school student was found to have made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques here, the ISD said.

He had chosen Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands as his targets because they were near his home, it added.

Influenced by the Christchurch attacker Brenton Tarrant, the youth had mapped out his route and bought a flak jacket. He intended to buy a machete on online marketplace Carousell and wanted to live-stream his planned massacre.

"He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence. He watched the live-streamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and read the manifesto of the attacker, Brenton Tarrant," said the ISD.

He had also watched Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda videos, and came to the erroneous conclusion that ISIS represented Islam, and that Islam called on its followers to kill non-believers, said the ISD.

The ISD said it was clear from his attack plans and preparations that this youth was influenced by Tarrant's actions and manifesto.

First, he planned to carry out his attacks on the anniversary of the Christchurch attacks. He had conducted online reconnaissance and research on both mosques to prepare for the attack.

He also planned to drive between the two attack sites like Tarrant, and therefore devised a plan to procure a vehicle to use during the attack, said the ISD.

The youth had chosen Assyafaah Mosque in Sembawang (left) and Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands as his targets. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

Third, he bought a tactical vest from an online platform, and intended to adorn the vest with right-wing extremist symbols and modify it so that he could strap on his mobile device to live-stream the attack, just like Tarrant did.

Detailed planning, preparation

The youth had explored various other options before deciding on the machete as his attack weapon, said the ISD.

His original plan was to use a rifle similar to that used by Tarrant. He managed to find a prospective seller via a private chat platform, but did not follow through with the purchase when he suspected it was a scam.

He nevertheless persisted in his search for firearms online, and gave up the idea only when he realised that it would be difficult to get his hands on one, given Singapore's strict gun-control laws, the ISD said.

He intended to adorn a vest he had bought online with right-wing extremist symbols. PHOTO: ISD

He also explored making a triacetone triperoxide bomb and mimicking Tarrant's plan of setting fire to the mosques with gasoline.

He eventually dropped both ideas due to logistical and personal safety concerns.

To prepare himself for the knifing attack, the youth had watched YouTube videos, and was confident that he would be able to hit the arteries of his targets by randomly slashing at the neck and chest areas.

At the point of his arrest by the ISD, the youth had found his choice machete on Carousell which was listed for $190 but had not purchased it yet.

He had explored various other options before deciding on the machete as his attack weapon, said the ISD. PHOTO: ISD

In further imitation of Tarrant, he had prepared two documents which he intended to disseminate prior to his attacks - one as a message to the people of France to stand against Muslims, and the second as a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam.

The manifesto, which was unfinished when the youth was arrested, said that "violence should never be solved with peace", because peace, while "moral", is "nowhere near effective" as violence.

It borrowed heavily from Tarrant's manifesto and referred to him as a "saint" and to the Christchurch attacks as a "justifiable killing of Muslims".

"The detailed planning and preparation attests to the youth's determination to follow through with his attack plan," said the ISD.

Youth had acted alone

The 16-year-old admitted during the investigation that he could foresee only 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 its investigation to date indicated that the youth had acted alone.

There was also no indication that he had tried to influence anyone with his extreme outlook or involve others in his attack plans.

His immediate family and others in his social circles were not aware of his attack plans and the depth of his hatred for Islam, said the ISD.

"This case demonstrates yet again that extreme ideas can find resonance among and radicalise Singaporeans, regardless of race or religion. It is a threat to all of us and our way of life."

The ISD urged the public to stay alert to suspicious items and individuals, and to inform the authorities by calling 999, sending an SMS to 71999, or by using the SGSecure app.

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Monday, January 4, 2021

Singapore produced 55 of the world's 99 perfect scorers in IB exams, Parenting & Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Singapore produced 55 of the world's 99 perfect scorers in IB exams, Parenting & Education News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Singapore produced 55 of the world's 99 perfect scorers in IB exams

SINGAPORE - Amid a Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted learning, students from Singapore who sat the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma exams last November have managed to outshine their global counterparts again.

The Switzerland-based IB Organisation, which conducts the exams, said Singapore produced 55 of the 99 perfect scorers - more than half - this year.

Of the 2,228 students in Singapore who took the exams, 97.73 per cent passed. The global pass rate was 76.68 per cent, while the rate for the Asia-Pacific region was 91.83 per cent.

The average scores of Singapore students were also higher than those of their global and regional counterparts: 38.35 points against 29.81 and 34.83 respectively.

More than half - 50.65 per cent - of Singapore students also scored 40 points and above, out of 45. In comparison, 11.63 per cent of global students and 27.66 per cent of Asia-Pacific students achieved the same result.

On Monday (Jan 4), students from eight schools - including Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), School of the Arts and St Joseph's Institution - received their results.

All 443 students in ACS(I) - the first Singapore school to offer the IB diploma since it was accredited in 2005 - passed the IB exam. Their average score was 41.8 points, with 363 of them obtaining 40 points and above.

The school did not release the number of its students who achieved the perfect score of 45.

At Hwa Chong International School, 99.3 per cent of its 144-strong cohort passed the exam, with an average score of 37. Six students obtained 44 points.

SJI said 99.3 per cent of its 272 students in the diploma programme passed as well, with an average score of 40.3. There were 184 students who attained at least 40 points.

SJI International saw all 183 graduates in the cohort pass, with an average of 37.7 points.

Religious school Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah's first batch of 25 students in the diploma programme passed the exams as well. The highest score achieved was 42 points, while the school's average score was 34.8 points.

Meanwhile at Sota, all 157 students in the cohort passed too. Those in the diploma programme obtained an average score of 38.7 points, with more than half of them scoring 39 points and above.

One Sota visual arts student, Mr Izz Muhammad Ahmad, said that the circuit breaker period earlier this year due to the pandemic gave him more time to complete his assessments at home.

While this also meant there was less time for lessons, which was a challenge as there were some subjects he felt he needed real life interaction to learn better, the 18-year-old managed to overcome this by arranging for consultations and asking his peers for help.

"Every situation has multiple perspectives to it. There may be good and bad aspects of it, and we should look for the good ones and figure out a way to lessen the bad ones," he said.

Dr Siva Kumari, IB director-general, called 2020 a "tumultuous year for our students".

"I am extremely proud for all our new diploma programme and career-related programme graduates," said Dr Kumari, who sets the strategic direction of the IB. She assumed the post in 2014.

The IB Organisation noted that due to prolonged Covid-19 uncertainties, schools had been provided with a choice of options for their students, including awarding grades using written examinations if they could be sat safely and an alternative route using coursework and predicted grades.

Schools could also consider deferring to the May 2021 session with no additional cost or withdrawing from the IB November session with a full refund.

The organisation said that 73 per cent of the IB world schools were able to administer the exams using local guidelines for safe exam administration.

The remaining 27 per cent had not been able to administer the exams as a result of governmental mandate or local conditions.

"The IB ensured that student grades are fair, valid and comparable irrespective of whether their school was able to run examinations or not," said the organisation, adding that appropriate grade boundaries had been set to account for global disruptions in learning and teaching as well as "other unusual circumstances that might have affected performance".

Students facing adverse circumstances over and above the pandemic were also supported on a case-by-case basis, the organisation added.

The IB Diploma Programme is a two-year programme conducted at 27 institutions in total in Singapore. IB qualifications are recognised by universities across the globe.

In Singapore, some students from other schools sat the first round of exams in May last year, and received their results earlier in July.

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