Homemade rockets have poor accuracy
Batam terror plot raises question of whether rocket from there could hit S'pore.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been running highly efficient and well-organised weapons factories in the Middle-East.
But would they be able to get rockets to their followers in Batam, Indonesia?
That's one big question that came up yesterday after six men who are believed to be linked to ISIS were arrested by the Indonesian authorities for plotting to launch a rocket attack from Batam on targets in Singapore's Marina Bay area. (See report, below.)
The authorities in both countries have not given any clues as to the type of rocket the suspects were planning to use, and the Indonesian police said they have not managed to recover any weapons so far.
Nonetheless, the plot has raised concerns about the possibility of an attack on Singapore targets from a distance. Singapore and Batam are less than 30km apart at the nearest point.
An investigation published by UK-based Conflict Armament Research this year said that ISIS has produced thousands of rockets and bombs in Fallujah, Iraq.
It is not known if the suspects have had any exposure to rocket-making, but they are from a terror cell called KGR@Katibah.
All of them worked at a factory except for one suspect, who is reportedly a bank executive.
If the suspects were constructing a homemade rocket, its accuracy would not be high, said Mr Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Mr Koh told The New Paper: "However, those manufactured by military factories are more reliable, and there are such examples (of rockets) which can be fired in single shots.
"Otherwise, those (rockets) from multi-barrel tubes require more military training to operate."
In the Gaza Strip conflict in the early 2000s, homemade rockets such as the fold-up Qassam-2 missile, which can be concealed and assembled within minutes, were fatal threats.
Developed by radical group Hamas, they have a limited range of about 8km and a payload of 9kg of TNT, reported Time in 2002.
Other short-range rockets capable of reaching Singapore from Indonesia would include the Grad (range 20km) and WS-1E (range 45km), reported Today.
These missiles, however, are not homemade and are manufactured in Iran and China respectively, meaning they would be more difficult to obtain for a small cell of budding terrorists.
"The attacks can come from terrorists who seek to come into Singapore; and they can come from terrorists who locate themselves just outside Singapore. Our small size increases these risks."
- Mr K. Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, in a Facebook post
"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, the police and other agencies have been stepping up inland and border security measures."
- Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security
"But we must always remember that we have to get it right, first time every time, all the time; while the attackers only need to get it right one time, anytime..."
- Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and NTUC secretary-general, in a Facebook post
Suspects linked to Jakarta attack mastermind
On the six suspects' plot to fire rockets at Marina Bay targets, Indonesian police spokesman Agus Rianto told Reuters: "What we understand so far is that they were planning to attack vital objects, busy areas, including police offices."
Mr Rianto also told reporters that the suspects are believed to have links to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian fighting with ISIS in Syria.
"There's a link to Bahrun Naim because there was communication with Bahrun Naim - but whether they were affiliated with Bahrun Naim's group or not - this is what we're investigating now," Mr Rianto said.
Indonesian investigators believe that Naim was one of the masterminds behind an attack in Jakarta in January, in which eight people were killed, including the four attackers.
The Batam Pos newspaper quoted police as saying that the suspects were mostly factory workers aged between 19 and 46.
The Indonesian authorities did not confirm details of the latest alleged plot. National police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said the police and an anti-terrorist unit were in the early stages of their investigation.
The authorities in Indonesia and Malaysia say dozens of men have gone from their countries to join ISIS in the Middle East, while Singapore has detained several people suspected of supporting the group.
ATTACKS AT HOME
Security officials fear that Naim and other ISIS leaders had begun asking supporters in Indonesia and other countries to launch attacks at home.
South-east Asian militants fighting for ISIS in the Middle East have said they have chosen one of the most wanted men in the Philippines to head a regional faction of the radical group, security officials said last month.
Jakarta-based security analyst Sidney Jones said it would be a departure for Naim and his supporters if they were thinking of attacking targets outside Indonesia.
"One thing I think is clear is Bahrun Naim has been able to establish a lot of communication with a lot of people through his social media network," Mr Jones said.