Copycat attack planned on anniversary of Christchurch massacre foiled in Singapore

The 16-year-old had purchased a tactical vest and had found a machete on Carousell, but had not bought it yet.
The 16-year-old had purchased a tactical vest and had found a machete on Carousell, but had not bought it yet. Photo credit: Internal Security Department

Warning: This article discusses the Christchurch terror attacks and contains details that may disturb some people.

A 16-year-old student planned to conduct terrorist attacks against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore on the anniversary of the Christchurch massacre, according to Singaporean officials.

The Singaporean teen, a Protestant Christian of Indian ethnicity, had been inspired by the manifesto of gunman Brenton Tarrant, according to a statement released by Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday (local time). 

On March 15, 2019, Tarrant opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday Prayer, beginning at the Al Noor Mosque in Riccarton and continuing at the Linwood Islamic Centre. Fifty-one people were killed and 40 were injured in the consecutive shootings. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on August 27, 2020 - the first time the sentence was handed down in New Zealand's history.

In the statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs - a department responsible for Singapore's national security and public safety - confirmed the teen was detained last month under the Internal Security Act (ISA). 

"He was found to have made detailed plans and preparations to conduct terrorist attacks using a machete against Muslims at two mosques in Singapore," said the Internal Security Department (ISD).

"He was self-radicalised, motivated by a strong antipathy towards Islam and a fascination with violence.  He watched the livestreamed video of the terrorist attack on the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, and read the manifesto of the Christchurch attacker, Brenton Tarrant.

"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."

The department said it was clear from his plans and preparations that the youth had been influenced by the Christchurch shootings and the gunman's manifesto. He had planned to carry out his attacks on March 15, 2021, and had picked Assyafaah Mosque and Yusof Ishak Mosque as his targets due to their locality. Like the Christchurch gunman, he intended to drive between the two sites, and planned to modify a tactical vest with right-wing extremist symbols and a strap for his mobile device, enabling him to livestream the attack.

The 16-year-old had initially planned to use a rifle as his attack weapon, but abandoned the idea due to Singapore's strict gun-control legislation. He then considered making a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) bomb, but later decided on a machete. According to the ISD, the teen had prepared himself for the knifing attack by watching YouTube videos.

In further imitation of the Christchurch gunman, the youth had prepared two documents he intended to disseminate prior to the attacks, according to the ISD. The first was a message to the people of France, drafted following an attack on a church in Nice on October 29 last year. He called on French people to "stand up for what is right", referring to his intended attacks as an "act of vengeance" and a "call for war" against Islam.

The second unfinished document was a manifesto detailing his hatred for Islam, influenced heavily by Tarrant's own publication. In the document, he expressed his hope that his attacks "would cause a change in those who believe that Islamic extremism is right". 

"He admitted during the investigation that he could only foresee 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," said the ISD.

"ISD's investigation to-date indicates that the youth had acted alone… his immediate family and others in his social circles were not aware of his attack plans and the depth of his hatred for Islam."

The ISD noted that the youth is the first detainee to be inspired by far-right extremist ideology, and is the youngest individual to date to be dealt with under the ISA for terrorism-related activities.