Parliament: Police response "precise" in shooting at roadblock

A bullet hole is seen on the front windscreen of a red sedan car which was involved in an early morning shooting incident where a man was shot dead and two others were arrested after a car illegally bypassed a police vehicular checkpoint on May 31, 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Singaporean Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at, 23, who allegedly snatched the revolver of a police officer at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital while trying to escape, has been charged under the Arms Offences Act. He faces the death penalty for allegedly discharging a firearm. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The police had taken precise measures when they shot at a car in May to stop it after it crashed through security barriers around the Shangri-La Hotel, where a major security summit was being held.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean, responding to MP's questions on the incident, said in Parliament on Monday that the summit was assessed to be subject to a high level of threat.

The shooting in May left the car driver Mohamad Taufik Zahar, 34, dead. His two passengers, Mohamed Ismail, 31, and, Muhammad Syahid Mohamed Yasin, 26, were arrested, and drugs were later found in the car.

Mr Teo said the police's actions on that day had been limited to the vehicle and the people in it. He added that under Section 63 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the use of force is allowed. This should be proportionate to the threat faced.

Security had been at a high around the Shangri-La Hotel, where defence ministers and security chiefs from around the world were gathered for the Shangri-La Dialogue in May.

In the current security climate, said Mr Teo, such an event could be seen as a "prime target for terrorists".

He added: "The threat of terrorism is real and present...The police will continue to do their utmost to counter security threats to secure Singapore and protect Singaporeans from those who wish to carry out acts of violence and destruction."

For the first time since the incident, he also gave details on the security set-up in the vicinity of the Shangri-La Hotel.

Mr Teo said the police conducted a series of road blocks and security checks on people and vehicles around the hotel from 28 to 31 May.

Six stations were set up for checks on people, while five stations were set up to check vehicles entering or approaching the hotel to ensure they were not carrying dangerous weapons or explosives.

Citing a 2014 report on terrorism, Mr Teo said explosives have been the most prevalent type of weapon used in attacks, making up more than 60 per cent of all incidents globally.

He added that car bombs have left staggering death tolls in the Middle East, and closer to home, the Jemaah Islamiyah network had just a decade back planned on using truck bombs to attack embassies, MRT stations and military installations here.

"These are all sober reminders that Singapore is not immune to this threat," said Mr Teo.

Multiple stages of security measures are put in place to deter the threat of vehicle bombs, when the police assess that such protection levels are warranted.

For instance, traffic signs are set up near affected roads, ahead of the vehicle check stations.

Vehicles approaching check stations are also stopped by police officers before being directed to undergo a detailed inspection.

The check stations at the Shangri-La Dialogue, he pointed out, were designed such that drivers would need to move around concrete blocks to reach inspection bays.

Beyond the inspection point, a line of concrete barriers weighing about two tons each, police land rovers or mobile crash barriers, are also deployed to deter drivers attempting to evade checks. Armed police officers were also on the ground.

"In a situation where a driver ignores police's repeated orders to stop, and crashes his vehicle through the concrete barriers, causing an imminent threat to lives, police's procedure, as a last resort, is to open fire at the driver of the vehicle to neutralise the threat immediately to prevent it from causing danger to the event and the delegates and others involved in the event," said Mr Teo.

He said a coroner's inquiry will be conducted in the coming months to establish the detailed cause and circumstances leading to the shooting and death of the driver.

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