Expert advice on handling terror incidents

Protecting and preserving blast evidence is key to tracing the attackers, says Mr Pearce.
Protecting and preserving blast evidence is key to tracing the attackers, says Mr Pearce.

Veteran investigator shares expertise with Asean officers

A veteran British intelligence investigator, Mr Keith Pearce, lost his right eye while rescuing four American Federal Bureau of Investigation agents injured during a terrorist bomb attack in Pakistan six years ago.

Despite his injuries, he went back to the blast scene to investigate as he feared there might be a second attack.

For his bravery, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2009.

Now in Singapore, Mr Pearce, 61, shared his expert knowledge on incident management with 28 Asean counter-terrorism officers.

At the launch of the three-day workshop, held at the Orchard Hotel yesterday, he drew on his extensive experience in investigating terror blasts such as the 2005 terrorist atrocities in London.

On July 7 that year, four suicide bombers attacked central London, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more.

He spoke to the media before the closed-door workshop, organised by the Home Team Academy.

After a bomb goes off, the government, security agencies, businesses, the media and people need to work together to fight terrorists, he said.

Saving the lives of the bomb blast victims is the first priority, said Mr Pearce, who now runs a company providing crisis investigation and preparedness training.

At the same time, security officers should swiftly protect and preserve the attack site. By doing this, security officers can obtain bits of evidence on which terrorist group was involved, where the bombers purchased their explosives and the financial sources for their clandestine operations, he said.

"You can find fingerprints of the bombers for a DNA analysis and other leads from innocent-looking items," he said.

In his opening address at the workshop, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, said countries must take a united stand against terrorist threats.

These threats now transcend national boundaries, he said.

"Globally, the threat of terrorism is still very much alive today. It remains diverse, complex and unpredictable," he said.

New groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are luring many foreign fighters to do battle in Syria, he said.

Singapore, he added, had its own crisis management system which managed, mitigated and resolved the impact of any crisis.

"Through the central coordination of actions by various agencies, this approach ensures clear command and control alignment of political, strategic and operational responses," he said.

One participant, Mr Eugene P. Gonzalez, from the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Council Program Management Centre, said: "These sessions are useful as it helps you be aware of how to improve the way incident management is done in your country."

mnirmala@sph.com.sg