THE failed breach of a security checkpoint barely 250m from the venue of the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday morning, when one man was shot dead and two arrested, may have eventually been found to be drug-related.
But "police did the right thing, ever vigilant to the fact that this could have been a terrorist plot", said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Only after a bomb squad confirmed that there were no weapons or explosives in the car was the all-clear given, and traffic, which was held up at a safe distance behind a cordon, allowed to resume. At about 11.30am, Orange Grove Road, Anderson Road and Ardmore Park were reopened.
"If there was an improvised explosive device detected, the implications would have been very sobering and serious for Singapore," added the minister.
The area around Shangri-La Hotel had been placed under a tight security net, given that it was hosting a major security summit attended by defence ministers and security chiefs.
At around 4.30am at a highly secured checkpoint along Ardmore Park, three Singaporean men in a red Subaru Impreza defied orders to allow police to check the boot of the car.
Instead, the 34-year-old driver tried to make a run for it and crashed the car through the barricades. "Despite police warnings to stop, the driver continued to crash through police barricades, endangering the lives of the officers. Police opened fire at the vehicle to stop further danger," a police spokesman said.
The car, which had a single bullet hole in the front windscreen, came to a stop on a grass patch barely 250m from the entrance of the Shangri-La Hotel. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. It was the first time in seven years that police have had to open fire, with the last incident - involving a knife-wielding man who continued to advance on an officer at Outram Park MRT station - occurring in 2008.
The two passengers, aged 26 and 31, were arrested. The latter was wounded and taken to hospital. Police later searched the vehicle and found a bag containing a white powdery substance - believed to be drugs - and drug paraphernalia.
The police yesterday said two of the men, including the driver, were wanted by the authorities, but added little more, declining to answer queries on their identities or how many shots were fired.
The Shangri-La Hotel was locked down briefly in the wake of the incident. Vehicles, delegates and the media were not allowed to enter the hotel from around 7.30am. But this is believed to have lasted for just 30 minutes and the three-day summit ended yesterday afternoon as scheduled.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the police swiftly brought the situation under control.
"The investigations so far indicate that the situation is related to drugs," he said, adding that the police would deal firmly with lawbreakers to maintain public safety and security.
The incident came just days after the revelation that a local 19-year-old student had been detained under the Internal Security Act as he wanted to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group. It was also reported last week that the group had identified Singapore as a possible target.
"All Singaporeans are thankful that it (a terror attack) did not happen this time, but with the threat of extremist terrorism, we must all be prepared if an actual terrorist plot does occur," said Dr Ng.