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Why It Matters

Vital to report radicalisation

A terrorist attack launched by a self-radicalised individual is the greatest terror threat facing Singapore today - and the best defence against this menace is not guns and security officers, but vigilant and alert citizens in the community.

This was a point stressed by both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its inaugural Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report, released last Thursday, and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

The MHA called on the community to help detect and report signs of radicalisation in their friends and family members.

Their proximity to their loved ones means they will often be the first to notice telltale behavioural changes, it noted. They are also well placed to counsel these individuals before they go astray, and alert the authorities before they commit terror acts.

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Mr Shanmugam reiterated the call for people to report radicalised individuals on Sunday, one day after a terror attack in London that killed at least seven people and injured 48 others.

"When you keep quiet, and an attack like this happens... you are doing a serious injustice to the system," he said.

Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi is an example of a radicalised individual whom security agencies failed to stop. His friends noticed changes in him years before he detonated his explosives and killed 22 people. They phoned the police's counter-terrorism hotline, worried because Abedi had expressed views supporting terrorism.

Even though their warnings were dismissed or overlooked, this incident illustrates that families and friends of the self-radicalised are the first line of defence in averting possible disaster.

Alarmingly, the MHA pointed out that, in some self-radicalisation cases it has dealt with, friends and family withheld information from the authorities. They did it either out of denial or a misguided belief that they were protecting their loved ones.

The call to report those who may be radicalised should be heeded, as inaction could lead to greater harm and carnage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Vital to report radicalisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe