IN FOCUS: The inside story of how ISD crippled a terrorist network targeting Singapore after 9/11

“As a leader of the cell, I sent one of my men to become a dispatch rider where he went into MINDEF to deliver parcels or packages,” Alif, now in his late 40s and dealing in dispatch, advised CNA.

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“In the mail room, he surveyed what was in the mail room, then he came out and looked around the MINDEF compound.”

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One of the cell members additionally labored at a firm that distributed a defence journal whose subscribers included officers who labored at Gombak. “So we got to know some names, and we gave these to our seniors,” Alif mentioned.

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One of the more detailed schemes was when a JI member tailed a MINDEF officer from Gombak all the way in which to Tampines. It turned out that JI had thought of putting explosives in a MINDEF officer’s automotive and detonating them whereas the automotive was within the camp, ISD mentioned.


Then on Dec 3, the media printed a report that Aslam had been arrested by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

The story, which was prone to entice additional media consideration, compelled ISD’s hand. The division determined to carry ahead its operation towards Aslam’s associates earlier than they went underground or left the nation to flee arrest.

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On Dec 8, the operation started. ISD senior analysis officer Wei Ling* remembers vividly how that day, a Saturday, began.

“When my research team, colleagues and I went into the office that day, we thought that it was pretty much going to be an open-and-shut kind of operation that would be wrapped up by that weekend, or just a few days after that,” she advised CNA.

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“But by nightfall on Saturday, we realised that we were so far wrong, and that we had actually stumbled on something big. Specifically, we had to somehow race against the clock to stop terrorist attacks from happening on Singapore’s soil.”

The subsequent day, ISD officers arrested six of Aslam’s associates and seized objects of curiosity from their houses.


Back on the workplace, the strain was mounting. 

Research officers like Wei Ling labored 12-hour shifts, every dealing with two or three suspects that had been introduced in. These officers labored instantly with their operations counterparts, who have been assigned the identical suspects to concentrate on.

Wei Ling, now in her 40s, mentioned it was powerful work to start with as a result of the JI suspects weren’t speaking: “They were clamming up, which basically meant that we do not know what to look out for,” she mentioned.

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“So, it really felt like we were trying to put together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle but the problem is that we did not know how it was supposed to look like in the end.”

The plan was for ISD’s operations officers to strive breaking down the suspects, Wei Ling mentioned, whereas analysis officers combed by the copious quantities of proof that had been seized.

These included issues like picture albums, spiritual books, identify playing cards and even scraps of paper caught between the pages of books.

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