Terrorism 'endemic' in region: Defence Minister
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen outlined the terror threat facing Singapore in Parliament yesterday, highlighting that the number of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-related attacks in the region has gone up threefold since 2013.
The Ministry of Defence does not have any specific intelligence on any impending plot targeting Singapore, he said.
But ISIS-linked terrorists and Al-Qaeda are known to have identified Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as targets.
Dr Ng was responding to Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who had asked about the anti-terror operations of the Singapore Armed Force (SAF).
The Marawi crisis, said Dr Ng, indicates that extremist terrorism is now "endemic" in the region. It may take many years before the security problem is rooted out, he added.
Mindanao is under martial law as Philippine security forces battle ISIS-linked elements in the southern city of Marawi.
"If these terrorist cells entrench deeper in Mindanao or any part of Asean, they will launch attacks against our people in Singapore and other cities in the region," he said.
Dr Ng added that his ministry and the SAF were dealing with the threat on three levels.
At the source of ISIS attacks, the SAF has deployed units as part of the multinational coalition efforts since 2015.
As for terror threats in the region, Dr Ng said it will be "too little, too late" if Singapore waits till the problem comes here.
He said both Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and President Rodrigo Duterte have accepted, in principle, Singapore's offer of help through humanitarian supplies for Marawi evacuees, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to assist with intelligence-gathering and the use of the Republic's urban warfare training facilities.
There is also a need to strengthen defence at home, not just to respond to attacks but also to prevent radicalisation of Singaporeans and deal with the social consequences in the aftermath of any attack.
As part of this,the Island Defence Training Institute, was opened on Monday.
It will prepare active and National Service units to undertake homeland defence and security operations, Defence Minister Ng said.