The terror threat facing Singapore took on a more menacing face yesterday after six militants were arrested in Batam.
Police said their leader had been planning a rocket attack on Marina Bay together with a Syrian-based Indonesian ISIS militant. The six men in Batam had been kept under watch for a while before they were arrested by Indonesian police in an early-morning raid.
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Facebook: "Our security agencies have been coordinating closely with the Indonesian authorities to monitor the activities of this group and to apprehend those involved.
"We are grateful for the good cooperation by the Indonesian authorities and their actions to apprehend the group."
In response to this threat and the prevailing security situation, police and other agencies have been stepping up inland and border security measures, said Mr Teo. "This development highlights the seriousness of the terrorism threat to Singapore," he said.
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the six "were thinking of attacking Marina Bay with rockets", and "this shows how our enemies are thinking of different ways of attacking us".
He drew a parallel with Molenbeek, the Belgian town from which terrorists planned their assault on Paris last November and, in a series of coordinated attacks, killed 130 people. "There are several possible Molenbeeks around us from which attacks can be launched on Singapore. These include the Riau Islands," he said.
The islands are a short boat ride from Singapore and include Batam, where the six members of a little-known terror cell called Katibah GR, or Cell GR, were picked up yesterday by Indonesia's elite counter-terrorism unit Densus 88 along with the local police.
Five of those arrested work in electronics factories and one at a bank. They are between 19 and 46 years old. Their leader, Gigih Rahmat Dewa, 31, was nabbed at his house, where he lived with his wife and baby.
Indonesia's national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters in Jakarta that Gigih "had planned to launch a rocket from Batam to Marina Bay Singapore".
He had planned this with Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant believed to have been fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Police said Gigih took orders from Bahrun, and among their plans was to attack public areas.
The two men were also part of the larger terror narrative unfolding in Indonesia. The cell was suspected of harbouring Uighurs, the Muslim ethnic group from China, some of whose members have joined extremists in Indonesia. It had also received funds to send fighters to Syria.
Mr Shanmugam said that in addition to lone wolves and radicalised groups, the terrorist threat to Singapore now also came from those seeking to come in through its checkpoints and those who would try to launch attacks from just outside.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said: "We should assume that there may be more plots, other terror cells on the lookout for ways, and new munitions to penetrate our defences. Terrorism is a global problem and no country is immune."