World

World on alert after Manchester blast

Countries mull strengthening security after UK blast kills 22; attack also prompts discussion of Singapore's resilience

Countries across the globe have begun considering tightening security ahead of major theatre and sports events following the suicide bomb attack in Britain that killed at least 22 people.

Britain was on its second-highest alert level of "severe", meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely, after the suicide bomb blast at the end of a concert by US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester on Monday.

The country has since raised its terror threat to the highest level of critical which means another attack is expected "imminently".

The US Department of Homeland Security said Americans may experience increased security at public events.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters: "We have strengthened our position by establishing an information-gathering unit dedicated to international terrorism."

European football body Uefa said there was "no specific intelligence" to suggest that the Europa League final in Stockholm between Manchester United and Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam tonight (tomorrow morning, Singapore time) might be the target of any attack, adding that "a number of additional security measures were implemented" after a truck attack in central Stockholm last month.

The suicide bomber seemed intent on inflicting the maximum possible damage on young concertgoers who were leaving the Manchester Arena.

Police said the blast occurred about 10.30pm UK time (5.30am Singapore time), minutes after pop star Grande finished her set.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the blast, which also left at least 59 injured.

British police did not reveal the identity of the suicide bomber but a US law enforcement official named him as 23-year-old Salman Abedi. Another 23-year-old man in South Manchester was arrested.

The deadliest terror attack in Britain for more than a decade saw the city of Manchester rally, with residents and businesses offering their rooms and car rides to stranded concertgoers.

Hotels such as Premier Inn and Holiday Inn opened their doors and taxi company Streetcars switched off meters.

SINGAPORE'S VULNERABILITY

Security experts here warned of Singapore's vulnerability in light of upcoming large-scale events, even with the implementation of nationwide anti-terror movement SGSecure, launched last September.

Rock star Sting will perform at the Singapore Indoor Stadium this Sunday and the International Champions Cup, which will feature football giants Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, will feature at the National Stadium in July.

The 10th edition of Formula 1's Singapore Grand Prix will be held in Marina Bay in September, and was to feature Grande as well as other international acts including The Chainsmokers and Calvin Harris.

Mr Andrin Raj, South-east Asia regional director for the International Association for Counter-Terrorism and Security Professionals, wondered if Singaporean social resilience and unity would come alive after an attack. He said: "Singapore is well prepared in terms of preventive measures, but I've not seen the Singaporean context of a strong and resilient society which is needed in the aftermath of such an attack."

Centre of Excellence for National Security research fellow Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman, however, believes that like the Manchester spirit, the Singapore spirit will show in such a scenario.

"We have fortunately been untested so far, and some negative responses would be inevitable. But I think that Singaporeans are more likely to be supportive of one another, as we have seen through the popularity of crowdfunding activities recently, where unrelated Singaporeans have come forward to help one another."

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies and coordinator of the National Security Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, pointed out that initiatives like SGSecure help Singaporeans deal with emergencies.

Experts also pointed to recent preventive measures taken by the authorities to respond to the rising terror threat.

In March, amendments to the Public Order Act were tabled in Parliament, requiring organisers to notify the police a month beforehand if they expect a crowd of more than 5,000 people at an event.

Instructions will then be issued to ensure stringent security measures are put in place.

Dr Ramakrishna stressed that good intelligence and law enforcement would be crucial in stopping terror attacks.

He said: "Once we come to the large-scale crowded event itself, being able to detect potential terrorists would be that much harder. Good intelligence is vital to ensure that law enforcement is aware of known persons of interest, who can then be tracked by measures both human and technical."

S'pore leaders on attack

I am deeply saddened by the vicious attack in Westminster, London, which resulted in many casualties. On behalf of the people of Singapore, I convey our deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, and whose lives have been affected by this horrific incident. Singapore strongly condemns this senseless and horrific terrorist act.

- President Tony Tan Keng Yam in a letter to Queen Elizabeth II

"MFA and the Singapore High Commission in London have reached out to Singaporeans who are e-registered in London. Thus far, there have been no reports of Singaporeans directly affected by or injured in the incident."

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"We need to be alert to prevent an attack; ready to respond to keep ourselves and others safe if we are caught up in one; remain resilient to carry on life normally; and stay united to counter those who advocate extremism and violence."

- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Facebook

"It is a tragedy and a reminder of the clear and present danger... We must never let such acts disrupt our way of life or divide our people. It is critical to ensure that unity of societies is maintained as the long-term objective of terror groups is to divide us."

- Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan

"For an assailant to use a vehicle to mow down people as if they were pins is yet another tragic violent chapter in our troubled world. For Singaporeans, we must come together - with vigilance, hope and effort, to protect ourselves and each other."

- Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen on Facebook

"It was a cruel and calculated attack, clearly aimed at striking at the heart of British democracy and the British way of life. "

- Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam on Facebook

"We deplore the loss of innocent lives caused by shocking violence, which has no place in any community. This is a stark reminder for all communities to rally together, care for each other, and remain vigilant against such senseless acts, and the ideas behind them, which are a threat to the fabric of our society. Our strongest defence against such threats is to maintain our bonds of humanity and shared values."

- Assistant director of the Office of the Mufti and Asatizah Development, Muis, Ustaz Irwan Hadi

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