New teams deployed against terror threats

This article is more than 12 months old

Stationed in high-footfall areas, they are likely first responders in event of attack

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has introduced new quick-response teams at some of Singapore's more iconic attractions to boost the Republic's counter-terrorism efforts.

Since Dec 1, In-Situ Reaction Teams (IRTs) have been deployed in popular areas in Singapore, such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay, to heighten security during the festive period.

IRT officers, recognisable by their beige berets, will be stationed in areas of high footfall.

Part of the SPF's Protective Security Command (ProCom), IRTs will complement existing ground response forces and emergency response teams.

Already situated in pre-determined areas, they are likely first responders in the event of an attack.

The new counter-terrorism force comes on the back of a string of terror attacks, such as in Central London on June 3, where attackers drove a van into pedestrians on the London Bridge and launched a knife attack in Borough Market, demonstrating what the police said was "a different modus operandi of terrorists".

Assistant Commissioner of Police and ProCom Commander Manimaran Pushpanatan said: "The mission of the IRT is to deter, detect and respond to threats similar to that you have seen in Paris and London.

"All IRT officers are trained in special tactics and are more proficient in the use of high-powered weaponry to counter these threats on the ground."

IRT officers, which will largely be made up of full-time national servicemen (NSFs), are required to undergo a three-week programme after their six-month basic training.

The training was rigorous but necessary, said Special Constable Sergeant Jared Chang Joo Xyang, who is in the pioneer batch of IRT officers.

"They would drill random scenarios into us, and we would have to immediately respond. Terrorists are always changing the way they attack, so the different scenarios are real possibilities of what might happen," said the 19-year-old.

The three-week specialised training will equip each four-man IRT - three NSFs and one regular - with specific skills, such as dealing with hostage situations and heavy-vehicle attacks.

Whether in training or in the field, every IRT officer carries 17kg of gear, including a helmet and a vest. Every team is armed with HK-MP5 sub-machine guns and Taurus M85 pistols.

Yesterday afternoon, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo was at Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Orchard Road to observe the new team in action.

Mrs Teo, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Manpower, said: "This festive season, our Home Team has once again geared up to ensure Singaporeans remain safe.

"As the crowds throng the streets, we have also set up IRTs from the ProCom to provide a swift and effective response should there be a terror attack.

"We are entrusting our NSFs with greater responsibilities, as they form the bulk of the IRTs, to work with our regular officers in counter-terrorism efforts."