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Fighting terrorism in unusual war zones

Published on Apr 4, 2014 8:18 PM
Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna holds the title of Professor of Security Studies and he heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. -- ST FILE PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

They pit their mental stamina and skills against each other like gladiators in a modern-day amphitheatre of terror.

In one corner are the bad guys, terrorists who are apocalyptic antagonists, constantly seeking ways to inflict pain and damage on society. On the other side are the good guys - the counter-terrorist experts who crush terror groups like Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

I began writing stories on this fight in a series titled Old War, New Methods in November. The Straits Times ran the series to put a human face to the counter-terrorism efforts being done on many fronts in Singapore, and to tell the stories of the men and women involved in that effort. What struck me about the good guys was that they were no James Bond type secret agents. No fancy electronic gadgets and no flashy sports cars. They were professionals who brought their expertise in different fields to counter new terrorist threats out there. 

One such expert is a former physical education teacher Salim Mohamed Nasir, 52. The soft-spoken man is on secondment from the Education Ministry to a think tank, the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). He visits schools, engaging young minds and helping them to see why it’s important to reject extremism and violence.

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