SINGAPORE: Singapore said Tuesday 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 said they arrested five suspected Islamist militants on Tuesday who had been deported from Singapore, after being alerted to their alleged extremist activities by authorities in the city-state.
There is growing concern over an increase in attacks on minorities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
Suspected Islamists have murdered at least 30 members of religious minorities, secular bloggers and other liberal activists, foreigners and intellectuals in the country in the past three years.
Two gay activists were hacked to death last week in attacks claimed by a Bangladeshi branch of Al-Qaeda, while a liberal English professor was killed days earlier, a murder claimed by the IS group.
Bangladesh police also said Tuesday they were investigating a new hit-list from a group called the Islami Liberation Front, which includes the head of a university, journalists and ruling party officials.
Singapore is heavily dependent on foreign labour and employs 1.15 million overseas workers out of a total population of 5.6 million.
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.