Parliament: No signs of heightened security threat since Singapore's offer to help anti-ISIS coalition

SINGAPORE - There are no indications of a heightened security threat to Singapore following its offer to deploy personnel to support the multinational coalition combating the terrorist threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament Thursday.

But the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq has meant that the overall threat level for every country is greater, he said in response to questions from Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam on how the government is handling the ISIS threat to Singapore.

Mr Teo said that while security agencies here share watch-lists and information with their foreign counterparts, such measures are not fool-proof in preventing foreign terrorists from entering Singapore.

This is especially if they have not previously attracted the attention of security agencies.

"This is compounded by the large number of individuals from many different countries - more than 15,000 in total - who have taken part in the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq, plus others who have been indoctrinated or extremist ideology or trained in violent methods elsewhere," said Mr Teo.

He added that Singapore, like other countries, reserves the right to deny a traveller entry to Singapore if he does not have a bona fide reason to be here.

"Singapore also subscribes to Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which allows us to identify anyone who uses a lost or stolen passport to mask his real identity," he said.

Home-grown terrorism is also a problem because ISIS effectively uses social media and the Internet to recruit foreign fighters, said Mr Teo.

"Our community and religious organisations have put in considerable effort to counter the radical ideology of ISIS and the jihadist terrorists. They recognise the importance of tackling the problem ideologically, to complement security action by the authorities," he said, adding that Singapore will hold a symposium in April to share best practices with other countries on ways to counter the terrorists' radical ideology.

yanliang@sph.com.sg