Upgraded strategy to counter terror threat in Singapore
Since 2015, the terrorism threat has morphed into a large, powerful monster, said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at a closed door forum yesterday. Singapore, sitting in an oasis of calm in the face of terrorism attacks in the region, is a prime target. TNP details what Mr Shanmugam said and how his ministry plans to tackle this threat
ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ AND SYRIA (ISIS)
It is unlike many other terrorist organisations as it controls large territories and makes millions from oil.
It is media savvy and has persuaded 30,000 foreigners to fight for it. This includes people from the region, including Singapore.
Compared with other terrorist groups, ISIS is at a different level and sophistication.
It wants to establish a caliphate in the region, encompassing Singapore, so the threat of a terrorist attack is at its highest level in recent times.
How we may be hit
• Attacks planned just outside of Singapore, but carried out in the country
• Attacks involving weapons smuggled into Singapore for use by radicalised Singaporeans or foreign militants
• Lone wolf attacks by self-radicalised people
• Radicalisation of foreign workers in SingaporeTHE REGION
• More than 100 people suspected of having links to ISIS were arrested last year. Four of them were army commandos.
• Clean skins - potential attackers with a clean record - also form a substantial threat, with 12 arrested last year. They could have crossed over to Singapore undetected.
• Some pro-ISIS groups are coming together under the banner of Jamahh Ansharul Khilafah (JAK). Other groups outside JAK will compete for attention and increase the possibility of one-upmanship attacks.
• The Jemaah Islamiah network in Indonesia also seems to be reviving.
• Due to the lack of adequate security laws, radicalised people cannot be arrested and prisoners have to be released even though they may still have radical and violent tendencies.
Returnees from Syria/ Iraq:
• About 1,000 South-east Asians, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS. At least 100 have returned battle-hardened with combat skills, violent tendencies and extremist ideologies. Another 200 were barred from crossing into Syria and deported by Turkey.
• The 100,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and 120,000 in Thailand have been targeted by ISIS and are vulnerable to radicalisation.
SECURITY PROTECTION AND VIGILENCE
EXPANDING CLOSED-CIRCUIT TELEVISION (CCTV) COVERAGE
• The installation of police cameras at 10,000 Housing Board residential blocks and multi-storey carparks will be completed this year.
• Over the next four years, starting from this year, cameras will also be installed in common areas in the heartland that have high human traffic, like walkways and hawker centres.
• The CCTVs will be a greater deterrence and will give the police better sense-making and situational awareness. The footage will also help the police identify perpetrators, arrest them in a shorter period of time and prevent them from launching more attacks.
• A network infrastructure will be set up to allow the police to have on-demand access to CCTV data in more areas, like those monitoring the public transport system and government buildings.
• The public will be able to submit videos on crowdsourcing platforms - a necessary, strategic and direct response to the evolving mode of attacks.ENACTING LAWS WHERE NECESSARY
• Premises owners and major event organisers may be required to put in place security measures, such as installing CCTV systems and screening event-goers.
• Soft targets, like entertainment centres, sports facilities and shopping centres, need to be better protected. Terrorist attacks have been staged at soft targets in major cities because of the little or no security protection.
NEW TEAMS TO RESPOND TO TERRORIST ATTACKS
• New Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) will be formed to respond quickly, engage the attackers and minimise casualties. These police officers will patrol the terrain and engage stakeholders to become familiar with the areas they look after. They will be specially trained with counter-assault skills and will carry more potent weapons.
• The second wave will be the Special Operations Command and the Gurkha Contingent. Their capabilities will be enhanced and measures will be taken to ensure that they arrive on the scene faster.
• It represents Singapore's national strategy to safeguard our homeland and the Singapore way of life against the threat of terrorism and community strife. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will roll out this movement later this year.
SG Secure is three-pronged:
• Stay alert: Be vigilant and alert to unusual behaviour or items in our surroundings.
• Stay united: Cherish and safeguard Singapore's social fabric.
• Stay strong: Be ready to deal with crises if they occur, be resilient and help one other overcome adversity.
• MHA will reach out to Singaporeans in neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, the national service community and community groups. Then it will work with partners to develop or enhance programmes to sensitise, train and mobilise different groups of Singaporeans.FIGHTING SELF-RADICALISATION
• It is not an easy task to try to inoculate Singaporeans from the influence of preachers who advocate intolerance or other online influences, but we have to try.
WHY EXTRA COSTS ARE NECESSARY
A lesson learnt from the attacks in Paris and Jakarta is that premises with heightened security can help lessen the impact of the attacks.
The proposed increased security measures, which include installing police cameras or imposing mandatory screening at major events, will increase building and operating costs, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged.
"This unfortunately cannot be avoided. The terrorists have imposed multiple costs on society, ranging from increased costs due to heightened security measures, to costs to the social fabric."
There will be some inconvenience to visitors to events, malls or other premises, and people will have to get used to security and bag checks.
"But I believe that our people will understand and accept the need for these measures," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
400,000 The number of people crossing both ways at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints every day.
90,000 The number of travellers crossing at Woodlands checkpoint by motorcycle.
80,000 The number of travellers crossing by car.