English video of Singaporean militant reveals IS propaganda shift

ISIS-challenge1

PETALING JAYA: Security experts have warned that the release of a new propaganda video for the Islamic State (IS) featuring a Singaporean English-speaking militant shows a strategic shift in the terrorist network’s publicity campaign to entice and recruit young Muslims in Southeast Asia.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has identified the man in the video as Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, 39, who left the island republic in 2014 to work in the Middle East where he was believed to have been radicalised.

The clip, reportedly lasting three and a half minutes, shows Megat dressed in military fatigues and calling himself “Abu ‘Uqayl from Singapore” as he loads ammunition onto a truck fitted with a machine gun with a few other combatants.

According to Channel NewsAsia, Megat then turns to the screen and speaks in English, calling for people to join the IS in East Asia, or to fight with IS fighters in other regions like Libya, Yemen and Western Africa.

While doing so, he urges them to “sacrifice all that is precious”.

He also addresses Britain’s Prince Harry, who had visited Singapore in June and broken fast with local Muslims as it was the month of Ramadan.

“Prince Harry, you come to Singapore and tell sad stories to gain sympathy about London terror,” he says.

“Why don’t you come here and fight us if you are man enough so that we can send you and your Apaches (helicopters) to hellfire?”

The Straits Times (ST) reported that Megat is understood to have had a string of criminal and drug-related offences in Singapore, including burglary convictions in 1999 and 2002.

It quoted Remy Mahzam, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, as saying that the video indicated a shift in language medium, in a likely attempt to attract younger, English-speaking Muslims in Southeast Asia.

“They no longer use only Arabic as the medium to preach or to push their agenda… They are using a language accessible to the communities here,” he was quoted as saying.

He said Megat’s mention of Harry’s visit was his way of showing he was familiar with what was happening back home.

Remy was also quoted as saying that there was a risk of radicalised Singaporeans viewing Megat as an “ideologue or someone they can emulate”, which could prompt them to carry out lone-wolf attacks on the island.

Meanwhile, Bilveer Singh, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, was cited by ST as saying that the choice of Megat as a spokesman in the video was not coincidental, as it was meant to “inspire and motivate” English-speaking Muslims in the region.

“He was not chosen by accident. He’s from Southeast Asia, from a country where Muslims are in the minority, and which has been publicly targeted for attack,” Bilveer was quoted as saying.

As IS has lost much ground in the Middle East, the video was a clarion call for people to join the fight elsewhere, particularly in Southeast Asia where conflicts involving Islamic extremists have been recently seen in southern Philippines’ Marawi city and the Rakhine state in Myanmar, he added.

In a statement on Sunday, MHA said Megat had made his way to Syria to join IS’ ranks and was still believed to be there.

“MHA had previously shared Megat’s case confidentially with our community leaders,” the MHA said. “Anyone who is in contact with him or knows of anyone in touch with him should report it to the authorities.”

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