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Attack by lone radical is Singapore’s ‘greatest concern’: MHA terrorism report

  • Author:channel newasia
  • Source:channel newasia
  • Release on :2017-06-01

SINGAPORE: The threat posed by radicalised individuals is Singapore’s greatest concern, even as the possibility of an attack by regional terrorist elements or an organised terrorist network or cell remains, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a Terrorism Threat Assessment Report issued on Thursday (Jun 1).

These would be men and women in Singapore’s midst, who have been galvanised by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror coalition’s relentless exhortation to its supporters to take things into their own hands, the report added.

“While the self-radicalisation phenomenon in Singapore is not new and pre-dates ISIS, ISIS has exerted a radicalising influence well beyond what other terrorist groups… have ever been able to muster.”

The report noted that two Singaporeans have gone to Syria to join in the conflict, with their families in tow, while the number of radicalised Singaporeans detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) has increased from 11 between 2007 and 2014 to a present 14 cases since 2015.

Two recent detainees were prepared to carry out attacks in Singapore on behalf of ISIS, said the report. One wanted to assassinate the President and Prime Minister, so that Singapore would become leaderless and could be turned into an Islamic state under the “ISIS caliphate”.

Failing which, he planned to carry out attacks in public places “in order to strike fear within our society”, using easily available weapons such as knives.

ISIS has also radicalised foreigners in Singapore - with 34 Bangladeshi nationals repatriated and six serving sentences here since late 2015. They had been found to be planning armed violence against the Bangladesh government, with one saying he would carry out attacks anywhere if directed by ISIS.

In the last two years, eight Indonesian domestic helpers were also deported after they were found to be radicalised. None had plans to carry out acts of violence but their radicalisation and association with terrorists overseas were of security concern, said the report.

THE PEOPLE’S ROLE

Radicalised individual attacks are hard to prevent and can happen quickly without much warning, the report cautioned.

Southeast Asian militants based in Syria and Iraq are likely to continue instigating attacks in their home region, using social media and encrypted messaging applications. There may also be an increased flow of returning fighters to Southeast Asia as ISIS loses ground in Syria and Iraq, said the report.

“Released terrorist prisoners in the region are also a concern. They may return to terrorism if they have not been de-radicalised. Around 200 terrorist prisoners in the region will be released over the next two years.”

“Even though our security agencies will do what it takes, they cannot do so alone,” noted the report. “The public should continue to stay alert and be prepared.”

A strong community response is critical given the high likelihood of an attack - hence the SGSecure movement launched in September 2016 to sensitise, train and mobilise Singaporeans in the fight in the fight against terror.

The report emphasised the importance of detecting and reporting radicalised individuals. “It is often family and friends who are first to notice tell-tale behavioural changes. They are thus best placed to counsel possibly self-radicalised individuals before they step off the precipice, or to alert authorities if they are unable to rein them in.”

In some of Singapore’s self-radicalisation cases, friends and family members knowingly withheld information from authorities either out of denial or the “misguided” belief they were protecting their loved ones, said the report.

“The opposite is true - by alerting the authorities to signs of radicalisation early, friends and family members are in fact helping to save them from harming themselves and those around them.”

“The terrorism threat to Singapore is multifaceted and serious,” the report concluded. “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.”

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