Singaporean detained for taking part in Yemen civil war

SINGAPORE (CNA) – A 48-year-old Singaporean man has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) since March last year for being “actively” involved in the civil war in Yemen, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said on Wednesday.

Sheik Heikel Khalid Bafana, who was in Yemen from 2008 to 2019, had volunteered to take up arms and also worked as a paid agent for a “foreign power” by collecting intelligence on Yemen, ISD said. He was arrested under the ISA after he returned to Singapore on February 5 last year.

“Heikel’s case was not disclosed earlier because investigations into his activities in Yemen were complex, and earlier disclosure would have jeopardised ongoing investigations,” said ISD.

The announcement comes two weeks after authorities said that Ahmad Faysal, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi who worked in Singapore, was arrested under the ISA on November 2 for terrorism-related activities.

As part of Singapore’s heightened security posture following terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere, the Ministry of Home Affairs said last month that it started investigations against 37 people for suspected radical inclinations, or for making comments which incited violence or stoked communal unrest. Heikel and his family migrated to Yemen around 2008 where he ran a consultancy that advised foreign companies on security risks and business opportunities, ISD said.

Yemen has been mired in civil war for years, pitting Houthi rebels against the Yemeni government. PHOTOS: AFP

“While there, he assisted one of the factions in the civil war, and volunteered to take up arms and fight alongside this faction,” it added.

“He also acted as a broker between this faction and the foreign power, in an effort to secure military equipment, supplies and funds to conduct military training.” The civil war is between the Houthi movement and the Yemeni government. It has killed 100,000 people in what the United Nations described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Separately from around 2012 to 2018, Heikel collected intelligence on Yemen for the foreign power, for which he was paid “substantial amounts”, ISD said, adding that his dealings with the foreign power were “clandestine” in nature.