Bangladeshi Islamist group met in parks, plotted attacks, says Singapore

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it had issued two-year detention orders for the men, who it says called themselves the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB), under Singapore's colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allows suspects to be held for lengthy periods without trial.

"The ISB is the first group comprising all foreigners to be detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities in Singapore," the ministry said in a statement.

Wealthy, multi-ethnic Singapore, which has not faced any successful militant attacks in decades, had announced the arrests on Tuesday, saying its investigations showed the ISB had identified several possible targets in Bangladesh.

Giving further details on Wednesday, authorities said the group had a hierarchical structure with a leader, deputy leader and members assigned specific roles such as finance.

Its members had each worked in Singapore for between three and 10 years and generally lived in different accommodation, the MHA said, adding they were not known to have been radicalised when they arrived in the city-state.

There were no indications that they had planned to carry out attacks in Singapore, it said.

Five deported, held in Dhaka

Five other Bangladeshis who came to the authorities' attention during the same investigation had been sent back to the South Asian nation, the MHA said.

Police in Dhaka said they had been arrested since their return.

They were not involved with the ISB group, the MHA said, but had been found to be in possession of jihadi-related material or to support the use of armed violence for a religious cause.

Dhaka City police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sardar said the five, who travelled to Singapore between 2007 and 2011, were being investigated for possible connections with local militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).

They were returned to Bangladesh on Apr 29 and were arrested in different parts of Dhaka on Tuesday, Sardar said.

"We monitored their activities and then arrested them. A court has granted seven-day police remand to them," he added.

Islamist militants in Bangladesh have targeted atheist bloggers, academics, religious minorities and foreign aid workers in a series of killings that dates back to February 2015 and has claimed at least 20 lives.

Bangladesh authorities have said the ABT was behind the attacks on online critics of religious extremism and the killing last month of a gay rights campaigner and his friend.

The latest detentions were the second group of Bangladeshis investigated in the past six months in Singapore, which is host to around 150,000 workers from Bangladesh.

In January, Singapore said it had arrested 27 Bangladeshi construction workers who supported Islamist groups including al Qaeda and Islamic State late last year. All 27 have been deported.

Bangladesh said the same month it would charge 14 of those deported with membership of ABT.

Radicalised online

Singapore said there was no indication of a group connection between the eight men recently detained and those arrested last year, although some of them were personally acquainted.

It identified the leader of the ISB group as Mizanur Rahman, who has been working intermittently in the city-state since 2007 and was employed as a draftsman in a local construction firm at the time of his arrest.

"Mizanur's radicalisation began around 2013 when he read radical material online," the MHA said. "He became more radicalised after a Bangladeshi shared ISIS propaganda material with him when he was in Bangladesh in 2015."

Workers' rights groups say Bangladeshis are among the most economically vulnerable migrant groups in Singapore. NGOs say many work for wages as low as S$2 ($1.48) an hour and some do not get a day off.

Many mortgage their properties to pay fees to recruiting agencies to get jobs in the construction and marine industries or as cleaners. The fees can reach up to $15,000, the NGOs say.

Singapore said efforts to engage with the foreign worker population in the city-state were "ongoing".

"MHA has worked with MOM (Ministry of Manpower) and an advisory was sent to dormitory operators for them to engage the foreign workers living in their quarters," the statement said.

The ministry also said that there were currently 23 people detained for terrorism-related activities in Singapore under the Internal Security Act, a legacy of British rule that has been criticised by some rights groups.

Human Right Watch said in its 2015 World Report the act allowed authorities to detain people "for virtually unlimited periods without charge or judicial review".

Source: Bd News 24

Yen weakens a touch but intervention signal not heeded

The yen weakened for a third day running on Thursday but was still close to a recent 18-month peak, with investors unconvinced by a signal from Japan's prime minister that it could step in to weaken the currency.

The yen, traditionally used a safe haven, has gained more than 15 percent against the dollar over the past six months, amid market turbulence and as investor expectations for a steady increase in U.S. interest rates have failed to materialise.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that Japan was watching the yen's movements and would act if necessary, but market players generally believe the intervention bar is high. A U.S. Treasury report on Friday said "persistent one-sided" intervention by countries to weaken their currencies could see countries with big trade surpluses, such as Japan, classified as manipulators -- the latest sign that U.S. officials are not comfortable with more dollar gains. Having hit a 18-month low of 105.55 yen earlier in the week, the dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 107.14 on Thursday.

Japanese financial markets will reopen on Friday after shutting for the Golden Week holiday. In London, BNP Paribas currency strategist Sam Lynton-Brown said a recent announcement that Japan's government pension fund was hedging some of its dollar and euro exposure was significant.

"Ever since the start of Abenomics, Japanese investors have accumulated a large position in foreign assets but in large part haven't been currency-hedged because Abenomics was expected to weaken the yen," he said. "But if expectations of Abenomics being successful in weakening the yen dissipate, and that's what the theme has been in the last few months, then there is a large unhedged foreign asset position and in order to hedge that it means that institutional Japanese investors need to buy a lot of yen."

The possibility of currency intervention by Japanese authorities would be likely to rise if the dollar were to fall to 100 yen, said Tan Teck Leng, FX strategist for UBS Wealth Management in Singapore. In the past, Japanese officials had issued stronger verbal warnings on the yen's rise before intervening, Tan said, adding: "Ready to act and watching it closely is not yet the final warning."

The Australian dollar rose half a percent to $0.7499 , helped by upbeat Australian data, including a stronger-than-expected rise in retail sales in March.

The euro inched down 0.1 percent to $1.1474, helping the dollar index rise 0.1 percent and pull away from a 16-month low hit at the start of the week.

Source: Times Of Oman