Terrorism threat remains at highest level in Singapore in recent years: MHA report

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The country is and will continue to be a target of the Islamic State, says the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Singapore’s Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) troopers securing the area after neutralising a terrorist threat during a counter-terrorism operation demonstration (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)

SINGAPORE: The terrorism threat to Singapore stands at its highest level in recent years and the country remains a key target of the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a report issued on Thursday (Jun 1).

The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017, the first of its kind, cited ISIS as the most serious threat to Singapore and one that has shaped its “security landscape for the last few years”. 

However, while the threat level remains high, there is no credible intelligence of an imminent attack, the report noted, although security agencies remain on high vigilance.

Regionally, ISIS-linked incidents kicked off in January 2016 in Jakarta, Indonesia followed by a grenade attack outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in June the same year. A subsequent slew of suicide bombings and shootings have taken place in Indonesia and as recently as May this year.

“Pro-ISIS militants could set up base in parts of Southeast Asia which are more difficult for security agencies to deal with,” said the report, citing a recent siege of the Philippines’ Marawi City by an “IS East Asia” group.

“THINKING OF WAYS TO HIT SINGAPORE”

The report noted Singapore is and will continue to be a target for its role in international coalitions against terrorism, plus the fact that the country represents “many things that are anathema to ISIS”.

“ISIS has demonstrated that Singapore is very much on its radar,” said the report. “It had already plotted to carry out two attacks against Singapore that the authorities are aware of.”

The first of which involved local authorities mitigating the threat of foreign ISIS militants considering carrying out an attack in the first half of 2016, while the other saw Indonesia foil a plot by Batam-based terrorist to launch a rocket at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

The latter incident demonstrated how it is a “fact that terrorist elements are thinking of ways to hit Singapore”, said the report.

Singapore has also been cited as a target in jihadist publications and videos by ISIS and other groups. For example, one Arabic publication circulated in October 2016 named two entities in Singapore as potential targets “in the wider bid to bring down the US and Western interests by attacking the international economy”, said the report.

Following that, security agencies worked with these entities – which Channel NewsAsia understands to be SGX Centre and the PSA Building – to enhance their security measures.

“GRAVE RISK” OF ATTACKS BY RADICALISED INDIVIDUALS 

There is also a “grave risk” of attacks by radicalised individuals, the report noted, pointing out that such attacks using everyday items like cars and knives are hard to prevent.

Security agencies will do what it takes to detect and prevent a terrorist attack on Singapore soil, MHA said.

There will be similar reports in the future.

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