Singapore still faces strong threat from terrorism: MHA

Officers from the Emergency Response Team, who are specially trained in responding to public security incidents to complement the Police’s counter-terrorism capabilities, patrolling the Helix Bridge on Dec 27, 2018.
Officers from the Emergency Response Team, who are specially trained in responding to public security incidents to complement the Police’s counter-terrorism capabilities, patrolling the Helix Bridge on Dec 27, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

Vigilance remains high amid menace of ISIS, uncovering of more radicalised people here

The terrorism threat to Singapore remains high as more radicalised individuals here are uncovered and terror groups continue to make their presence felt globally, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a new assessment report.

While acknowledging that there has been no specific intelligence on an attack being planned against Singapore since 2017, it said security agencies have continued to maintain high vigilance.

"Among others, we continue to detect Singaporeans and foreigners working in Singapore becoming radicalised by terrorist propaganda. The public must continue to stay alert and be prepared that an attack might one day succeed," MHA said in the second edition of its Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released yesterday.

But a survey conducted in June and July last year by MHA of some 2,000 respondents found that only one in five feels the terrorism threat is imminent, or that an attack could occur within the next five years.

Alluding to this, MHA said that "it is important for Singaporeans to not become complacent".

The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report, first published in 2017, is aimed at alerting Singaporeans to the security environment here and regionally.

The first report said the threat to Singapore "remained highest in recent years", pointing out that it had been specifically targeted in the preceding year and that the regional threat had heightened.

 
 

It had also cited the worsening threat in the region arising from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group and its affiliates.

This year, MHA said the most pressing threat facing Singapore continues to emanate from ISIS, whose online presence has drawn it support despite heavy territorial losses in the Middle East.

The ministry also warned that other terror groups such as Jemaah Islamiah and Al-Qaeda are regrouping and may again launch large-scale attacks.

Self-radicalised individuals are also an area of concern, with eight dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in the past two years, bringing the total number since 2015 to 22. In contrast, between 2007 and 2014, just 11 radicalised Singaporeans were held under ISA.

Radicalisation among foreign workers here also continues to persist. MHA revealed that five more Indonesian domestic workers have been repatriated after they were found to be radicalised, bringing the total to 14 since 2015.

While there is no credible intelligence on an attack being planned here, the security agencies remain on high alert, said MHA.

"Our security agencies will do whatever it takes to keep our country and people safe from terrorist elements," it added.

"We will not hesitate to take action against any individual propagating pro-violence or segregationist religious teachings, whatever the religion."

The public has a role to play in the fight against terrorism, said the ministry, as it highlighted the important role SGSecure - the national terrorism awareness movement - plays.

It added that through SGSecure, most Singaporeans are now more vigilant to suspicious objects and behaviours, and know what to do when they spot potential threats.

The ministry also underscored the importance of early reporting of potential cases of self-radicalised individuals, as it would allow officers to act before the individual harms or kills someone.

"In addition, reporting to the authorities can save these individuals from themselves," said MHA.

"Once they commit an act of violence, they will face much more severe penalties and may even be liable for capital punishment for serious offences."

MHA had revealed last Wednesday that a former religious tea-cher and his student were issued Restriction Orders under the ISA last year for radical views promoting violence.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore still faces strong threat from terrorism: MHA'. Print Edition | Subscribe