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Terrorism threat to Singapore at highest level in years: MHA

It urges public to stay alert, even as security agencies maintain high vigilance
Friday, June 2, 2017 - 05:50

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The terrorism threat to Singapore has remained at the highest level in recent years, with the most serious threat coming from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Thursday.

Singapore

THE terrorism threat to Singapore has remained at the highest level in recent years, with the most serious threat coming from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Thursday.

"Singapore was specifically targeted in the past year and the regional threat has heightened," it said, as it urged the nation to continue to stay alert and be prepared.

There is "no credible intelligence" of an imminent attack on Singapore at this point in time, but the security agencies remain on high vigilance.

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The ministry made these points in its first terrorism-threat assessment report, which was made public on Thursday evening.

Painting a grim picture of what it described as the "worsening regional threat situation", it said that while threats from groups like Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah remain, it is the ISIS threat that has shaped Singapore's security landscape over the last few years.

The report went on to emphasise that setbacks in the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq have prompted ISIS to carry out attacks in countries of the anti-ISIS coalition.

ISIS has also encouraged its supporters to carry out attacks in their home countries, and these have already taken place in Europe, North America, South Asia and South-east Asia.

Closer to home, ISIS has been linked to several attacks across South-east Asia, including suicide bombings in Jakarta in January 2016, and the grenade attack on a nightspot outside Kuala Lumpur last June.

Over in the Philippines, a group that calls itself "IS East Asia" claims to be the de facto ISIS group in this region. The group's recent siege of Marawi City attests to its potential to turn Mindanao into an ISIS wilayat (province) for South-east Asian militants, said the MHA report.

"Should this entity proliferate into a regional network, like the JI had done previously, the terrorism threat will deepen further in South-east Asia," the report added.

As far as Singapore is concerned, the MHA stressed that the Republic faces a "very serious" terrorism threat and remains a key target.

"We have taken part in international coalitions against terrorism, and we represent many things that are anathema to ISIS. We are a secular democracy," the report noted.

"We are also host to many economic and commercial interests belonging to Western nations that ISIS considers as 'infidels'. We will continue to be a target as ISIS comes under siege in Syria and Iraq and aims to export its fight overseas in a show of prowess."

MHA went on to stress that Singapore is "very much on the radar" of ISIS, with the group having plotted to carry out two attacks against the Republic that the authorities here were aware of.

In the first half of 2016, there was reliable information that foreign ISIS militants were considering carrying out an attack in Singapore, but the authorities acted quickly and discreetly to mitigate the threat.

Then in August, the Indonesian authorities foiled a plot by Batam-based terrorists who had planned to launch a rocket attack against the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

The ministry also cited the ongoing threats from radicalised foreigners living in Singapore; it noted that groups of Bangladeshi and Indonesian nationals have been sent back to their countries after they were found to have been radicalised.

While the possibility of an attack on Singapore by regional terrorist elements or an organised terrorist network or cell remains, the "greatest concern" is the threat of an attack by radicalised individuals, said MHA.

"The amorphous nature of the enemy we face today means that even though our security agencies will do what it takes to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, they cannot do so alone," said the report.

"What is at stake is not just property and lives, but our way of life and our identity as a multi-racial, multi-religious society. Each one of us has a part to play in keeping Singapore safe."

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