Parliament: SAF boosting capabilities to respond to terror threat

Singapore Armed Forces  and Singapore Police Force personnel taking part in a joint homeland security demonstration at Clementi Camp on July 31, 2017.
Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force personnel taking part in a joint homeland security demonstration at Clementi Camp on July 31, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is arming itself to better fight the terror threat, Parliament heard on Tuesday(Jul1).

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the SAF was buying new equipment to give its forces "better mobility, more accurate situational assessments and precise capabilities" to neutralise terrorists in urban settings.

It has also updated its tactics, techniques and procedures for counter-terrorism operations, said Dr Ng, he was responding to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) who had asked about SAF's anti-terror operations.

Various drills and exercises are also being carried out in the air and maritime domains, and on land with the Home Team - adding that both the SAF and Home Team were working well together to deal with the threat.

"We have instituted a regular exercise framework to test and validate our joint operations," said Dr Ng.

He outlined the terror threat in Parliament on Tuesday, pointing out that the number of attacks linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group has increased three-fold since 2013.

Dr Ng said both ISIS-linked terrorists and Al-Qaeda have identified Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as targets.

He pointed out that the ongoing siege of Marawi in the southern Philippines is drawing foreign fighters to the region - and if the problem entrenches itself there, Asean countries would bear the brunt of any possible attacks.

 
 

"The ongoing Marawi crisis in southern Philippines indicates that extremist terrorism is now endemic in this region and it may take many years before that security problem is rooted out," said Dr Ng.

He added that his Ministry and the SAF were dealing with the threat on three levels.

First, it has been helping to combat these extremist groups at the source. The SAF has deployed personnel to the Middle East to support international efforts since 2007, first against groups such as Al-Qaeda and now ISIS, said Dr Ng.

He highlighted a SAF medical team currently in Iraq to support the multinational coalition against ISIS.

Second, the Government is also responding to the threat in the region. It has offered help from the Navy's Information Fusion Centre to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines for their joint maritime patrols in the Sulu Sea.

To address the problem in Marawi, Dr Ng said Singapore has offered the use of SAF's urban training villages for Philippine troops, to fly in humanitarian supplies via an RSAF C-130 transport aircraft, and a detachment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to boost the Philippine forces' intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has accepted Singapore's offer of assistance in principle, and details of implementation are being worked out, said Dr Ng.

Thirdly, the SAF is also boosting its capabilities to respond to the terror threat locally.

Dr Ng brought up the Island Defence Training Institute (IDTI) that was opened on Monday. The facility will train soldiers to respond to security and terror threats, alongside officers from the Home Team.

The training will allow the SAF to aid the Home Team in responding to multiple attacks.