Monday, 25 July 2016

Efforts to fight terrorism 'must involve every Singaporean'

By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2016

Fast-response police officers trained to tackle terrorism have started their patrols, and more will continue to be deployed in the coming months. But Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam also stressed that counter-terrorism is a "national project" that must involve every Singaporean.

He was speaking to reporters at the Esplanade yesterday after observing officers from the new Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) on a patrol.

The unit, made up of land division officers, was commissioned in June, two months after it was first announced at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition in April.

"The police have done very well in doing this in a very short space of time. Over the next few months, the deployment will continue, and the number of forces would be increased," Mr Shanmugam said, adding that morale is high among the officers.

"They know they are doing something extremely important for their country."



Since last month, ERT officers, who are specially trained in counter- assault skills and armed with HK-MP 5 submachine guns, have been patrolling public areas such as shopping centres and theatres.

They have also been engaging building owners and managers to come up with joint response plans, including how to work together during emergencies.

Asked whether Singapore had received threats recently, Mr Shanmugam said he did not want to get into specifics.

But he added that "from time to time, we receive credible reports on threats and, depending on the nature, some are more serious than others".

He also talked about the important role the public plays in countering terrorism.

Besides the police response, said the minister, "there is also the social response", especially how the community responds the day after any attack.

Mr Shanmugam added that he believes most people are aware that the threat of terrorism has increased in the wake of recent attacks around the globe.



And if something does happen, "we have to respond as a community, together, reaching across racial and religious lines... How (the public) would respond, what is their role - that is something that is, I would say, a work in progress, and that is part of the Ministry of Home Affair's strategy to bring that knowledge across to the entire country.

"These are not things that are done in a day. I'm optimistic that with the efforts that we are putting in... through intense ground effort and public education effort and targeting schools and businesses, we will create a much greater level of awareness and consciousness."








Lone teen killer behind Munich mall shooting
9 killed; 18-year-old obsessed with mass shootings, had no links with ISIS: Police
The Sunday Times, 24 Jul 2016

MUNICH • The lone teenager who shot dead nine people in a gun rampage in Munich was "obsessed" with mass killers such as Norwegian right-wing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik and had no links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, police said yesterday.

"There is absolutely no link to the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria)," Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae said. He said the assault was a "classic act by a deranged person" and described an individual "obsessed" with mass shootings.



He said investigators saw an "obvious link" between Friday's killings and Breivik's massacre of 77 people in a bomb attack in Oslo and a shooting rampage on the nearby island of Utoya exactly five years earlier.



Most of the victims in Friday's attack were foreigners. Munich prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said the 18-year-old German-Iranian student - named as David Ali Sonboly - had suffered depression, while media reports said he had undergone psychiatric treatment.

The teenager had 300 rounds in a rucksack when he targeted the busy Olympia shopping mall, just minutes away from the flat he shared with his family, according to the authorities.

The shooting began at a McDonald's fast-food restaurant at the mall near Munich's Olympic stadium at 5.50pm local time on Friday.

A video posted on social media appeared to show the man, dressed in black, walking away from the restaurant while firing repeatedly on people as they fled. He is reported to have then entered the mall to target more people before fleeing after encountering an armed plainclothes policeman. He would later exchange gunfire with police on top of a car park near the mall.



Initially believing that three gunmen were involved, the authorities launched a city-wide manhunt, mobilising more than 2,000 police supported by the elite GSG 9 anti-terrorist unit and helicopters.

Munich's main train station was closed and public transport suspended for several hours. Police later found the body of the sole shooter, who had killed himself with a shot to the head.

Special forces raided the suspect's apartment, which he shared with his parents, and removed boxes during the night. Even though the police found no terrorist link, ISIS supporters celebrated the attack on social media. "(ISIS) is expanding in Europe," read one tweet.

Among the nine killed were three Turks, three Kosovans and a Greek national, according to their foreign ministries. Most of the casualties were young people aged 15 to 21, with three women among the dead, according to Munich police.

Sixteen people were wounded, three of them critically.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday said she was mourning those killed in the attack, vowing that the security services would do everything to ensure the public was safe. "We are all - and I'm saying this on behalf of the whole federal government - mourning with a heavy heart for those who will never return to their families," Dr Merkel said.



Europe reacted in shock to the third attack on the continent in just over a week. The attack came just four days after a 17-year-old asylum seeker went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people.

Days before, on July 14, 31-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people, including children, after a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months.

German President Joachim Gauck said he was horrified by the "murderous attack". EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: "Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and all German people. Europe stands united."

French President Francois Hollande expressed sympathy and solidarity with German officials and people "in these difficult hours", while US President Barack Obama voiced staunch support for Washington's close ally.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS











Singapore condemns Munich shooting
The Sunday Times, 24 Jul 2016

The brutal terrorist attacks in recent months, happening one after another, put people "at risk of becoming numbed", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in a Facebook post yesterday.

"Shocked to learn of the shootings in #Munich," he wrote.

"We have seen so many brutal terrorist attacks in recent months, one after another. We are at risk of becoming numbed, and have to remind ourselves of the terrible human tragedy each time," he added.


In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, Mr Lee said Singapore condemns the "senseless act" in Munich.

"I am deeply shocked by the tragic shooting in Munich... that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives and many injuries. We wish those injured a speedy recovery.

"I offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families. We condemn this senseless act of violence. Our thoughts are with the people of Germany," he said.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also wrote on Facebook that he was "saddened by yet another vicious attack on innocents".

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have lost their loved ones to this attack," Dr Balakrishnan said.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said it had verified the safety of all registered Singaporeans in Munich.

It also advised Singaporeans who are there to stay vigilant.

Those who require consular assistance can contact the Singapore Embassy in Berlin by telephone: +49 (0) 152 2341 2182 or e-mail singemb_ber@mfa.sg

Alternatively, they may get in touch with the MFA Duty Office on the 24-hour hotline +65 6379 8800, 6379 8855 or by e-mail (mfa_duty_officer@mfa.gov.sg).











Racial harmony will help us prevent, respond to and recover from attack: DPM Teo
By Kok Xing Hui, The Sunday Times, 24 Jul 2016

In the wake of a spate of terror attacks in Europe, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday urged Singaporeans to strengthen their resolve to maintain peace and racial harmony here.

Speaking on the sidelines of a community sports event, he said: "By having good racial harmony, it helps us to prevent, it helps us to respond, and it helps us to recover if ever an attack were to take place."

He highlighted the recent arrests in neighbouring countries, including that of 14 Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants by the Malaysian authorities who were caught with a 1kg improvised explosive device.



These "reflect the level of activity that is going on in the countries around us", he said, adding that Singapore has also had to deal with people who encourage extremism and violence. "We should stop these people, we should take them in and make sure that we guide them along the right path, if we do find such people in Singapore."

Singaporeans who notice someone "who may be going down the wrong way", should bring the matter up to friends, religious figures or the authorities. "We can guide him on the right path, save him, save his family, save the community from harm," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

"No country in the world today is immune from terrorism. That's why we have to prepare for all three phases: To prevent as much as possible, to respond if there's an attack, and most importantly, to maintain social harmony and unity should an attack happen."

Yesterday, more than 40,000 residents took part in Community Sports Day events across 76 locations in Singapore. The inaugural sports day, organised by the People's Association, is meant to promote racial harmony.

At Pasir Ris Elias Community Club yesterday, 500 people took part in a fun race and games with a kampong theme - such as sepak takraw and skipping - flavoured with an ethnic twist. For example, the sepak takraw teams of three had to be made up of different races. Similarly, participants had to skip 20 times while wearing a traditional Indian sarong called a lungi.

Games, Mr Teo said, are a "wonderful way to bring people together" since it is a common language everyone can enjoy.

Engineer Gopa Kumar, 48, taught his teammates to wear the lungi. "The games really help build bonds with your neighbours," he said.





 












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