Singapore said yesterday it had arrested eight Bangladeshi men who allegedly plotted to carry out terror attacks and assassinations in their home country to establish an Islamic state.
The migrant workers were arrested in April under Singapore’s Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial, the home ministry said in a statement.
Items seized from them included manuals on bomb-making and how to use a 0.50 calibre sniper rifle, plus a list of Bangladesh government and military officials targeted for attack, it said.
The ministry said the men were members of a clandestine group set up in Singapore in March by 31 year-old Rahman Mizanur, who called the group “Islamic State in Bangladesh” (ISB).
They had initially planned to go to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group but decided to return to their homeland.
“As they felt that it would be difficult for them to make their way to Syria, they focused their plans instead on returning to Bangladesh to overthrow the democratically-elected government through the use of force, establish an Islamic State in Bangladesh and bring it under (Islamic State’s) self-declared caliphate,” the ministry said.
It added that five other Bangladeshi men had been investigated but not found to be involved in ISB. They nevertheless possessed jihadi-related material and been repatriated to Bangladesh, the statement said.
Bangladesh police yesterday arrested five suspected Islamist militants after being alerted to their alleged extremist activities by authorities in Singapore who had deported them.
Officers from Dhaka Metropolitan Police said they arrested the five in Dhaka’s Banasree district and seized jihadist materials from the former migrant workers.
“They are Islamist militants who have been sent back from Singapore recently,” city police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder said, adding that Singapore authorities had informed police about the five.
The head of the force’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, Monirul Islam, told reporters: “Singapore has accused them of inviting people to (engage in) extremism.”
Bangladesh police did not say if all 13 men were part of the same group.
Singapore is heavily dependent on foreign labour and employs 1.15mn overseas workers out of a total population of 5.6mn.
Officials say the nation — a close military partner of Washington — is a prime target for Islamic militants.
Singapore says it foiled an attempt by militants in late 2001 to carry out bomb attacks on US and other foreign targets in the country.
According to the home ministry, the ISB group planned to recruit more Bangladeshi workers in Singapore and raised money to buy weapons for use in Bangladesh. The money has been seized, the ministry said.
The group’s leader also told investigators that he would carry out attacks anywhere in the world if instructed to do so by IS, but the ministry said there were no specific indications Singapore was a target.
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