The threat to Singapore from terrorism remains high, according to a sobering assessment released by the Ministry of Home Affairs last week. The prime reason is the barbaric Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which still looms large despite being uprooted from the vast tracts it seized in Iraq and Syria five years ago. This is the central message from the Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2019. While no credible intelligence exists, for now, of an attack being planned against Singapore, continuing radicalisation is a menace. Eight self-radicalised individuals, including five involved in ISIS-linked cases, were dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the past two years. This brings to 22 the number of Singaporeans dealt with under the ISA since 2015. The comparable figure between 2007 and 2014 was only 11.
Developments in Singapore are part of the larger trends taking place in South-east Asia. There can be no doubt that ISIS, which slots the region under the "East Asia division" of its global caliphate, remains vested here. Last May, Indonesia witnessed its deadliest ISIS-linked attacks: the Surabaya bombings that killed 28. There were 12 other attacks and 13 foiled plots. In Malaysia, four plots were disrupted and more than 80 militants arrested last year. More attacks are feared if some of the estimated 1,000 South-east Asian ISIS fighters return, bearing battlefield skills and combat experience. Another worry is the release of hundreds of prisoners serving terrorism-related charges. Last week, Indonesia came close to granting parole to Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical cleric suspected of masterminding the 2002 Bali bombings. It backtracked after outrage that Bashir, the spiritual head of the regional Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militant outfit, may draw more to his path.