Saturday 3 June 2017

Terrorism threat to Singapore remains at highest level in years; Raise alert if someone you know is being radicalised

Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017

Republic was specifically targeted last year; events in Marawi a cause for concern: Ministry of Home Affairs
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2017

The rising tide of extremism worldwide has not left Singapore untouched, and it faces its highest terror threat level in recent years, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

"Singapore was specifically targeted in the past year, and the regional threat has heightened," the MHA said in its first Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report.

In October last year, an Arabic online publication titled The Fall Of The Idol: External Action And Individual Jihad singled out two entities here as potential targets - part of a wider bid to bring down United States and Western interests.

The Straits Times understands that the targets were the Singapore Exchange and a port.

MHA said security measures have been ramped up in the areas.

Saying that security agencies remain on high vigilance, it added: "The public should continue to stay alert and be prepared."

The report said that the worsening threat in the region arose mainly from terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates.

In the Philippines, a group calling itself "IS East Asia" overran Marawi City in Mindanao late last month.

While Philippine forces have moved to retake the city, the MHA said the siege of Marawi attests to the group's potential to turn parts of Mindanao into an "ISIS wilayat", or province for militants in the region. "Should this entity proliferate into a regional network, like the Jemaah Islamiah had done previously, the terrorism threat will deepen further in South-east Asia," it said.

At home, the threat remains very serious, the ministry added.

"Singapore is a key target. We have taken part in international coalitions against terrorism, and we represent many things that are anathema to ISIS," said the report.

Singapore is a secular democracy and host to economic and commercial interests from Western nations that ISIS considers "infidels", it added.

There have already been two ISIS plots to attack the country that the authorities have been aware of.

In the first half of last year, there was "reliable information" that foreign ISIS militants were considering carrying out an attack, and the authorities moved to mitigate the threat, said the MHA.

And last August, the Indonesian authorities foiled a plot by terrorists in Batam who planned to launch a rocket attack on Marina Bay.

Singapore also faces the risk of an attack by those influenced by ISIS propaganda.

Between 2007 and 2014, 11 radicalised Singaporeans were dealt with under the Internal Security Act. But the numbers have been growing, and since 2015, the Act has been used against 14 radicalised Singaporeans.

ISIS propaganda has also radicalised foreigners here - including some 40 Bangladeshi nationals since late 2015, and eight Indonesian domestic helpers since 2015.

The report called these radicalised individuals "a grave security concern". Any attacks they carry out can be hard to prevent and happen without warning - as everyday items like cars and knives are used.

A strong community response is critical in detecting and reporting radicalised individuals, MHA said.

It noted that in some cases that it detected, friends and family members had withheld information from the authorities because they refused to acknowledge the problem, or believed they were protecting their loved ones.

"The opposite is true," it added.

"The amorphous nature of the enemy we face today means that even though our security agencies will do what it takes to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, they cannot do so alone."

At stake are not just property and lives, but Singapore's identity as a multiracial, multi-religious society, MHA said, calling on people to play their part in keeping Singapore safe.

Vital to report radicalisation
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2017

A terrorist attack launched by a self-radicalised individual is the greatest terror threat facing Singapore today - and the best defence against this menace is not guns and security officers, but vigilant and alert citizens in the community.

This was a point stressed by both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its inaugural Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report, released last Thursday, and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

The MHA called on the community to help detect and report signs of radicalisation in their friends and family members.

Their proximity to their loved ones means they will often be the first to notice telltale behavioural changes, it noted. They are also well placed to counsel these individuals before they go astray, and alert the authorities before they commit terror acts.

Mr Shanmugam reiterated the call for people to report radicalised individuals on Sunday, one day after a terror attack in London that killed at least seven people and injured 48 others.

"When you keep quiet, and an attack like this happens... you are doing a serious injustice to the system," he said.

Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi is an example of a radicalised individual whom security agencies failed to stop. His friends noticed changes in him years before he detonated his explosives and killed 22 people. They phoned the police's counter-terrorism hotline, worried because Abedi had expressed views supporting terrorism.

Even though their warnings were dismissed or overlooked, this incident illustrates that families and friends of the self-radicalised are the first line of defence in averting possible disaster.

Alarmingly, the MHA pointed out that, in some self-radicalisation cases it has dealt with, friends and family withheld information from the authorities. They did it either out of denial or a misguided belief that they were protecting their loved ones.

The call to report those who may be radicalised should be heeded, as inaction could lead to greater harm and carnage.

Terrorists marked two Singapore spots as targets in 2016
Singling out of entities here signals significant increase in the threat level, say analysts
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2017

Two places in Singapore were marked by terrorists as potential targets last year, signalling a significant increase in the terror threat here, analysts said.

In its inaugural Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report yesterday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said an Arabic publication circulated last October, titled The Fall Of The Idol: External Action And Individual Jihad, had identified two entities here as targets as part of a wider bid to damage American and Western interests.

The Straits Times understands that the entities are the Singapore Exchange and a port.

Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies and coordinator of the national security studies programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the fact that the targets were singled out showed a "ramp-up" in the threat level.

"Previously, Singapore would usually be mentioned generally as a target, but this suggests that (the terrorists) are going a step further," he said, adding that the public should be concerned that the country was being "seriously considered" as a target.

In its report, MHA called the terrorism threat facing Singapore "very serious".

The ministry revealed that in the first half of last year, there was "reliable information" that foreign Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants were considering carrying out an attack here.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had alluded to this plot in his National Day Rally speech last year.

"The Singapore authorities acted swiftly but discreetly to mitigate the threat," said MHA.

The plot was one of two ISIS-linked plots that the authorities were aware of, MHA said in its report.

The other was a foiled plot by Batam-based militants who were planning to launch a rocket targeted at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort from the island.

Singapore has also been cited repeatedly as a target in militant publications and videos, MHA said yesterday. An ISIS publication released in September 2015 named Singapore as one of the countries in the "crusader coalition" that the terror group was battling.

An ISIS video in May last year singled out Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines as countries infiltrated by "disbelievers", and threatened action against them.

Security agencies in Singapore remain in a state of "high vigilance".

Analysts said one of the reasons that the terror threat here remains high is that Singapore exists in a region with countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, where terrorism has taken root.

The report pointed out that over the next two years, about 200 terrorists would be released from prisons in the region and could return to terrorism if they were not rehabilitated.

"It is important for governments to track them and see what activities they engage in," said Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, adding that these individuals could infect others with their ideas.

Dr Gunaratna added that while the Government has dealt with the problem effectively, with tools such as the Internal Security Act to preventively detain suspected terrorists, more could be done.

He suggested tightening requirements under the Public Order Act, which requires organisers of public events that draw crowds of more than 5,000 to put in place security measures.

"Even if there are only 1,000 people, given the vulnerability of events, the Government will have to act," said Dr Gunaratna.

Dr Kumar added that the public can no longer assume a terror attack will not happen.

"The bottom line is - nobody needs to be alarmed, but people need to be more alert and pay attention to what is happening in the region," he said.

Biggest worry is attack by radicalised persons within Singapore: MHA
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2017

The greatest terror concern facing Singapore is an attack from radicalised individuals within the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

The ministry flagged this yesterday in its report, and assessed this form of terror threat as the top concern - over an attack by an organised terror network or cell, or regional terrorist elements.

Individuals who pose this threat would have been "galvanised by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's relentless exhortation" to take things into their own hands.

They could carry out attacks that are hard to prevent, and may happen quickly, without warning.

"The perpetrators do not need sophisticated weapons and can turn instead to everyday items for weapons, like cars and knives," said MHA.

This is where the community can play a part - in detecting and reporting radicalised individuals to the authorities. MHA said that family and friends of such people are often the first to notice "tell- tale behavioural changes", and are best-placed to counsel self-radicalised individuals, or alert the authorities if they cannot rein in their loved ones.

Yet, MHA also noted that in some cases of self-radicalisation, friends and family have withheld information from the authorities either out of a sense of denial of the problem, or a misguided belief in wanting to protect their loved ones.

In the Manchester Arena suicide bombing last month that killed 22 people, friends and family of the bomber had detected signs of growing religiosity and extremism in him. The Guardian reported that on at least four occasions, community leaders and family members had warned the authorities of his "dangerous tendencies", even though these warnings were dismissed or overlooked.

Mr Jasminder Singh, a senior analyst at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said family intervention in such cases is key.

"We cannot wait until the person books a plane ticket or reaches the airport to tell the authorities," he said.

"To save this individual at the first instance... tell the authorities the moment that he or she shows an interest in or sympathises with terror groups."

In Singapore, the authorities launched the SGSecure movement last September to sensitise the community in the fight against terror. The SGSecure app, which can be used to send alerts in major emergencies, has been downloaded on over 461,000 mobile devices so far.

Programmes that seek to teach people life-saving skills and how to respond in the event of a crisis have also been launched.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said these programmes would go a long way in keeping Singaporeans vigilant.

"No successful attack can take place as long as people are vigilant and alert," he said.

Dealing with terror threat in South-East Asia
Editorial, The Straits Times, 2 Jun 2017

There are fears that terror in South-East Asia, previously stoked by fighters from the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, is now being shaped by those fighting under the flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The jitters were heightened by the battle in Marawi city between the Philippine military and an ISIS-linked group. Taking parts of the city, the militants killed innocent civilians and took hostages. The brutal audacity of the group, in facing off against an army brigade, spawned worries that ISIS' influence might spread in the region, especially with the return of hardened militants from the Middle East, and that the phenomenon of ISIS might inspire Islamist groups and lone wolves.

Such apprehensions are capable of both being overblown and not taken seriously enough. First, South-East Asia is vastly different from the Middle East where ISIS has made a great impact. Notwithstanding the existence of a Malay-speaking wing of ISIS, Katibah Nusantara, the central group has not formally expressed an intention of migrating to South-East Asia. Further, the authorities in the region have been generally active in guarding against the rise of terror as the danger is obvious. The first ISIS-inspired event in South-East Asia in Jakarta last year was not a mass casualty attack, as the militants were deterred by tight security at a larger target in the area. Indeed, if the large-scale struggles spawned by ISIS in the Middle East - marked by barbaric acts of beheading - were to be replicated in the region, it would transform South-East Asia from a crucible of growth to a high-risk zone that would condemn all to years of insecurity and uncertainty. However, such a scenario is unlikely.

That said, other forms of terrorism in the region should not be dismissed as these have a long history. The radicalism of the Darul Islam Indonesia movement (Islamic State of Indonesia) has not been entirely wiped out. Under former president Suharto, Islamist hardliners were effectively constrained but, in recent times, they have resurfaced and infiltrated educational institutions and the bureaucracy. The last decade saw the rise of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which was behind the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005. As a result of signal threats arising from the Middle East, JI was later given public space to denounce ISIS which it loathes. But JI and other hardline groups are also capable of violence and division.

These risks are higher in societies where a "climate of religious conservatism and intolerance has created fertile conditions for ISIS ideology to gain popularity", as a commentator has noted. In vying for appeal across a broader plane, even mainstream groups might try to "out-Islam" each other. Blinded by political expediency, they fail to see that the main antidote to the poison of rising radicalism is resilient pluralism.

London bridge terror attack

British Prime Minister Theresa May vows to get tough after attack in London kills 7
UK govt to review laws to give police more powers, raise punishment for terror offences
By Tan Dawn Wei Deputy Foreign Editor In London, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to get tough on terrorism, after seven people died and more than 40 were injured when three men mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before going on a stabbing spree.

After chairing an emergency security meeting yesterday morning, she said "enough is enough", and that the country cannot pretend that things can continue as they are.

The government will review anti-terror laws to give police more powers and stiffen punishment for terror-related offences, step up efforts to prevent radicalisation, and cooperate with other governments to get Internet companies to stem the spread of extremist ideas.

Yesterday, police arrested as many as 12 people after raiding a property linked to one of the attackers in Barking, east London, as they frantically try to piece together a picture of the three men.

The trio went on a rampage last Saturday night in one of central London's busiest areas, as revellers packed the many restaurants and bars in the iconic Borough Market next to London Bridge.

A white hire van careened at high speed into pedestrians along the bridge at 9.58pm before the trio, wearing fake bomb vests, jumped out and started slashing people with 30cm blades. Witnesses said they heard the men shouting, "This is for Allah", as they cut down terrified revellers. Some people hurled chairs, bottles and glasses at the attackers to stop them.

Police arrived and shot dead the three assailants within eight minutes of getting the first call, drawing praise for their swift response.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said eight armed police officers fired an "unprecedented" 50 rounds to stop the attackers. He said police were making significant progress in identifying the men, but gave no details.

During the attack, many people took refuge in restaurants in the area, which went into lockdown.

Singaporean Ellen Chew, 48, who owns a tapas restaurant, Lobos, at Borough Market on the main street, said people ran into the restaurant to hide. She was not there when it happened but she said her employees were "quite distraught".

"We are all saddened by this senseless tragedy, especially since it happened on home ground, and we want to help the people affected, where possible," she said.

The attack came just a night before a benefit concert in Manchester held by pop singer Ariana Grande and others to pay tribute to the 22 people, including children, who died when suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of her concert less than two weeks ago.

Last Saturday's attack is the third terrorist strike in Britain in about three months, including the Westminster Bridge attack on March 22 that killed five people when a British-born man rammed his car into pedestrians on the bridge leading to the Houses of Parliament.

The country's threat level was raised from severe to critical for five days after the Manchester attack, over fears that Abedi had other accomplices or had built other bombs. Members of the intelligence community at yesterday's emergency meeting recommended against raising the terror alert again, which meant they did not believe other terrorists are at large.

But there is fear that the London Bridge incident will inspire copycat attacks, just as it might have been influenced by the Manchester attack. There is also worry that there will be more terror incidents during this holy month of Ramadan, when extremists have been encouraged to wreak havoc.

After the latest attack, major political parties yesterday suspended national campaigning for the general election, which takes place on Thursday.

'They were stabbing everyone'
The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2017

What began as the usual lively Saturday night out on London Bridge and in the historic quarter of Borough Market turned into a tragic outing for hundreds of Londoners and tourists, as three men went on a rampage, first in their van and then later armed with knives. Eyewitnesses describe the horror as it unfolded at various places.


Mr Vilwar Hussein told the BBC news channel that he had seen a white van perform a U-turn on London Bridge before driving back southwards along the pavement.

A man called Mark told the BBC he was taking photographs on London Bridge when he saw the van swerving wildly.

He said: "It was swerving from side to side and I could see it hitting people, and there was a group about 20 or 30 yards (18m or 27m) in front of me. The van hit those people. At that moment, I was doing that calculation of trying to work out which direction I should run."

BBC reporter Holly Jones, who was on the bridge at the time, estimated that the van was probably travelling at 80kmh.

"He swerved right round me and then hit about five or six people. He hit about two people in front of me and then three behind," Ms Jones told the BBC.

Another eyewitness told the BBC Radio 5 Live programme that he saw a van knock a person about 6m into the air. Five or six people lay strewn on the ground, and they "looked either dead or dying", he said.

A 25-year-old man told The Guardian that he was driving across the bridge when he saw a man and a pregnant woman unconscious on the road. "We thought it was a car accident but as we got closer, we could see a lot of blood and bodies. We had to get out of the car and there were lots of people screaming."


After mowing down pedestrians, the van headed towards Borough Market, a centuries-old food market bustling with restaurants and bars.

A man, who gave his name only as Robbie, was in a taxi opposite the Barrowboy and Banker pub on London Bridge.

"I saw about 20 or 30 people rushing to get back into the pub and, five seconds later, a big white van came screeching down the pavement," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Three men got out of the van and some bystanders thought the men were going to help the accident victims, but they were sorely mistaken.

Instead, the men "started kicking them, punching them and took out knives. It was a rampage, really", a bystander known only as Eric told the BBC, adding that he, too, heard a shout of "this is for Allah".

Robbie knew something was amiss when he saw the men's faces. "I could tell immediately, they looked very aggressive."

Mr Gerard Vowls, 47, was watching the Champions League final at the Ship pub in Borough. He told The Guardian that he was at the start of the south side of London Bridge and saw a woman being stabbed by three men 10 or 15 times.

"She was going, 'Help me, help me', and I couldn't do nothing," he said. "I want to know if this girl is still alive. I've been walking around for an hour and a half crying my eyes out. I don't know what to do."

Mr Vowls said he threw chairs, glasses and bottles at the attackers to try to stop them. "They kept coming to try to stab me... they were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people."


The attackers were not done and continued stabbing people as they made their way towards bustling Stoney Street, a few hundred metres away. Diners and drinkers were none the wiser that danger was approaching, until waves of people began streaming into the restaurants and pubs, some of them screaming.

"The bouncers did a really good job, they shut the doors and locked everyone in," eyewitness Will Orton, who was also in a pub close to the scene, told the BBC. "There was panic - it seemed like it was literally outside the door."

Mr Owen Evans, 39, was with friends in The Wheatsheaf pub in Stoney Street when shooting broke out. "I was in the back of the pub. A wave of about 30 people ran in and tried to get into the cellar or cupboard. Then there were shots outside. They didn't seem real - like a kid letting off firecrackers," he told The Guardian.

By this time, police were already on the scene, entering some premises and shouting at patrons to get down.

"We saw police lights and everyone got down under a table. People turned tables over... We waited about 10 minutes or so, with several shots every couple of minutes," recalled Mr Evans.

"The bar staff were amazing, I think they locked the door so no one got in... Then they told us to leave the pub and to run, and a policeman standing outside with a gun was shouting at us to get out."

British media reported people fleeing the scene with their hands held up, under the watchful eyes of the police.

Mr Steven Gibbs, who was drinking in St Christopher's Inn, a few metres from the scene, told the BBC: "A black cab drove past and the driver shouted, 'Terrorist attack, run!' I stood up to take a look and then all of a sudden, there were gunshots. Lots of people were screaming."

He was taken into the basement of the bar before the police came in and told everyone inside to run. "I've never been so scared in my life," he said.

By 10.16pm, the three men had been shot dead by the police, two of them close to The Wheatsheaf pub.

Suspect had been reported to police at least twice: Report
The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2017

LONDON • One of the three London attackers shot dead last Saturday was flagged to the anti-terror police on at least two occasions but no action was taken by the authorities, according to claims reported by The Telegraph news site yesterday.

A former friend of the dead man claimed in an interview with the BBC that he had alerted police to his concerns.

A neighbour also claimed that she had contacted police in Barking, east London, after the suspect tried to convert her children to Islam and radicalise them, reported The Telegraph.

The dead man has not been named at the request of the police.

The former friend claimed he called a police anti-terrorist hotline after he became alarmed at the man's increasingly extremist views. The friend told the BBC's Asian Network that the suspect had been radicalised by watching videos of infamous US hate preacher Ahmad Musa Jibril.

He said: "We spoke about a particular attack that happened and, like most radicals, he had a justification for anything and everything, and that day I realised I needed to contact the authorities."

He added: "He used to listen to a lot of Musa Jibril. I have heard some of this stuff, and it is very radical. I am surprised this stuff is still on YouTube and is easily accessible. I phoned the anti-terror hotline. I spoke to the gentleman. I told him about our conversation and why I think he was radicalised."

However, he said the man was not arrested and was allowed to keep his passport.

"I did my bit, I know a lot of other people did their bit, but the authorities did not do their bit," he said.

Ms Erica Gasparri, an Italian mother of three who lived close to the suspect, claimed that she had reported the man to Barking police two years ago, after he began "brainwashing" her children at a local park.

She said she had confronted him after her two children came home and said: "Mummy, I want to become a Muslim."

She said the police told her that the information had been passed to Scotland Yard, but she had heard nothing more about it.

Ms Gasparri said: "He was trying to radicalise the children - he would go down to the park and talk to them about Islam. He also came to the houses and gave the kids money and sweets during Ramadan."

On Sunday, counter-terrorism police raided a block of flats in King's Road in Barking, where the man was believed to have lived with his wife and two children.

According to media reports, the attacker had worked at a branch of fast-food chain KFC before leaving two years ago for a job at the London Underground.

Many of the locals described him as "polite and normal", reported The Telegraph, and said they were shocked that he could be a terrorist.

Raise alert if someone you know is being radicalised: Shanmugam
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2017

Come forward and alert law enforcement agencies if your family members or friends are being led astray by extremist ideology.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam called on the community to do this yesterday in the light of recent terror attacks, pointing out that people have a responsibility to report possibly radicalised individuals to the authorities.

"You are helping that person, you are helping society, you are helping the country. When you keep quiet and an attack like this happens... you are doing a serious injustice to the system," he said.

Last week, the Home Affairs Ministry released a report that said the threat to Singapore was "very serious". It said people must be alert to signs of radicalisation in those they know, as families and friends have knowingly withheld information from the authorities in some cases.

Mr Shanmugam said information on further arrests here and what families did or did not do will be released in the next few weeks.

He also listed four other ways to counter the terror threat:

• People must condemn violence clearly and unequivocally;

• Community and religious leaders have to foster unity and integration, not sow division;

• Guard against anti-Muslim sentiments, which appear to be on the rise;

• Take part in the SGSecure movement to prepare for a crisis.

"The threat to Singapore is at a fairly credible level and, though we don't have specific intelligence of an actual threat, we have to be vigilant," he said.

Guard against rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in Singapore: K. Shanmugam
He calls on everyone in the community to counter extremism by condemning acts of terror unequivocally
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2017

Anti-Muslim sentiments are growing in Singapore, and this is a trend the country needs to guard against in its fight against terrorism.

Stressing this point yesterday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam warned that internal government surveys have found that while people might be "politically correct" in public, such sentiments are spreading.

He was speaking to reporters in the light of a spate of recent terror attacks, and as the terror threat in Singapore continues to be at its highest level in years.

He cited a recent act of vandalism in which the word "terrorist" was scrawled on an illustration of a Muslim woman in a hijab at the construction site of the upcoming Marine Parade MRT station. The contractor made a police report last Friday, and police are investigating.

"The Government will act strongly and without any equivocation on this. We must set our face against it, should not allow it," he said. "And non-Muslims have a duty to make sure that we also embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters, and the Government will work towards that."

Speaking to reporters a day after a terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in Britain's capital city, Mr Shanmugam called on the community to step up and gird itself against terrorism.

"It has become routine for people to come forward and condemn. But that alone is not enough. We need to go beyond that," he said.

One way to do so is by condemning acts of terror unequivocally.

"No ifs, no buts, not just community leaders, not just religious leaders, but everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims. Come forward, make your stand clear and work for a united, tolerant, multiracial, multi-religious society," he said.

"Condemn these people and their actions in clear terms. Religious leaders have a duty to encourage their congregations to do so."

Mr Shanmugam also warned against exclusivist, divisive teachings that preachers in many other countries propagate, calling these a "poison" that feeds extremism.

Some of these teachings based on an "us versus them" mentality are insidious, create divisions within society and are at odds with Singapore's tolerant, multicultural and multi-religious approach, he noted.

He added that while the Government has frowned upon them, further steps have to be taken. He said: "Community leaders and religious leaders have a particular duty to make sure that our people are tolerant, that we greet each other, that we celebrate each other's festivals without ifs and without buts, that we understand that we live in a multiracial, multi-religious society.

"Anything else leads to society riven apart with deep rifts and, eventually, you will get (an attack)."

The minister added that as more terror attacks are carried out with everyday objects such as cars and knives, making them hard to prevent, it is critical that conditions allowing people to become radicalised be "nipped in the bud".

The Government actively intervenes to ensure different communities living together are integrated, prohibits extremist preaching and arrests radicalised individuals, he said. "We have laws that allow us to intervene much earlier than agencies in other societies can."

Apart from relying on the law, the way to foster a moderate, tolerant society is by keeping unemployment low and giving people economic and educational opportunities, he said.

As for preventing terror acts, Mr Shanmugam said people have a serious responsibility to alert security agencies to family members and friends who show signs of radicalisation. "When we have an arrest, often the families or friends have told us, sometimes they have not," he said.

He said his ministry will give an update on some cases in the next few weeks, and highlight what the families did or did not do.

He also urged the entire community to participate in the SGSecure national movement, which was launched last year and aims to prepare people for how to respond in the event of a terrorist attack.

"Understand the Run, Hide, Tell message. Volunteer, get trained to save yourself, save your family and come together," he said. "We need everyone to participate."

Meanwhile, Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng stressed the need to build up social cohesion in preparation for any attack.

"Before the day comes when an attack succeeds in Singapore, we must build the strength now in relative peace to overcome the tensions that would occur," he said at a community event.

Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay

Legal tools for UK agencies to intervene 'relatively limited'
The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2017

Intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom are doing the best they can to prevent terrorist attacks, but have relatively limited legal tools to do so, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

Asked if the agencies were slow to act on intelligence and were playing catch-up, he told reporters that they receive thousands of reports, and have to prioritise to identify who to go after.

"Frankly, they don't have the legal tools that, for example, Singapore has," he said, noting that Britain has, under the framework of freedom of speech, allowed extremist preachers who have "poisoned many Muslims".

With many sections of society exposed to such viewpoints and ideas, Britain's legal tools for agencies to intervene are relatively limited, he added.

He said agencies in every country face difficulties, particularly in other countries, given their size.

"So are they playing catch-up? They are being left with the very difficult task, so don't blame them," Mr Shanmugam added.

To nip in the bud the conditions that could lead to radicalisation, Singapore adopts "activist state intervention" to foster integration, he said.

"We prevent extremist teaching. We have laws that allow us to intervene much earlier than agencies in other societies can," he added.

Even so, people should not assume that nothing will happen, Mr Shanmugam warned.

Asked if the latest attack in London impacts a terrorism threat assessment report that the Home Affairs Ministry released last Thursday, he said the assessment remains unchanged - the threat to Singapore is at a fairly credible level, and the country must remain vigilant.

As for whether law enforcement agencies will ramp up security after the spate of attacks elsewhere, he said the measures in place are at an appropriate level for the current threat assessment.

The threat to Singapore is assessed on a very regular basis, he added. "I cannot go into the details, whether every day or every week, but you can be sure that we are watching it closely."

Best to 'run, hide, tell' during terror attack: Experts

By Danson Cheong, The Sunday Times, 11 Jun 2017

Journalist and martial arts expert Geoff Ho faced down three knife-wielding terrorists when they stormed into a bar near London's Borough Market last Saturday.

He could have run away but did not, he told British media, as he was trying to protect his friends and other people hiding at the bar.

In the end, he was stabbed in the neck, but survived the attack.

His actions, and those of others like him who flung chairs and beer bottles at the attackers, have been lauded as acts of heroism and triggered debate on whether bystanders should intervene before security forces arrive.

In Britain, people are advised to "run, hide, tell", during terrorist attacks. Now, some are asking whether they should stay to fight, like Mr Ho and others have done.

Security experts, however, cautioned against taking on armed terrorists, pointing out that escape, if possible, is the best course of action.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also advises the public to "run, hide and tell" if there is a terrorist attack. This means to run away from danger, and, if that is not possible, to find cover and stay out of sight. They should contact the police when it is safe to do so.

The advice, said a spokesman for the MHA, was modelled after the British advisory, which was developed based on case studies and real-life testimonies of people who have survived attacks. France also uses a similar protocol, he added.

Experts told The Sunday Times that it is the best course of action in a terror attack.

Dr Damien Cheong from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that encouraging untrained people to take on armed attackers could lead to greater casualties. "Some guys may think they are Rambo. What happens if they get involved, and as a result, the attacker gets even more agitated?"

But martial arts expert Teo Yew Chye believes people should fight when they are cornered or when escape is not possible."If you can run, you should... (but) you might have no choice but fight, because these terrorists are there to kill you to make a statement," he said.

He therefore prefers the advice of the United States Department of Homeland Security to "run, hide, fight", where fighting is advocated as a last resort in an active shooter incident. He said untrained people can wield everyday objects such as chairs or umbrellas as improvised weapons, and can come together to overpower the attackers.

He cited a 2015 incident, in which a gunman with an AK-47 rifle on a train in Belgium was subdued by three passengers, preventing a possible massacre. Two of the three passengers were US soldiers.

However security expert Kumar Ramakrishna reckons fighting should be an option only if the attacker is alone and lightly armed, and if respondents have martial arts, military or law enforcement training. "If confronted with several attackers who appear well-trained and well-armed as in the Paris attacks of November 2015, the 'run, hide, tell' option appears the most feasible," he said.

Professor David Chan, director of the Singapore Management University's Behavioural Sciences Institute, said the advice to run makes good sense as the "normal human response" of the majority in a terror attack is to flee. People can freeze in situations of extreme fear, which is why it is critical to be reminded of what to do, he added.

The MHA spokesman said "run, hide, tell" is a general advisory to help people stay out of harm's way during an attack."It is a simple and clear message and forms the basic response to most situations. However, when running and hiding are not viable, the public should consider other options available to maximise their chances of survival."

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo said that even though the strategy sounds simple, how the population reacts under duress can be uncertain. This is why agencies need to raise awareness in the community.

Separatist groups in region pose 'clear and present' danger to Singapore: PM Lee

By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2017

The separatist groups in South-east Asia pose a "clear and present" danger to Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as Singaporeans have been drawn to fight for their causes.

Mr Lee also said that if caught, they will be allowed to return home. "But we will make sure he has not brought back any dangerous ideas and is not likely to do any harm.''

He made these points in an interview with Australia's ABC Radio National on Saturday (June 10) when he was asked to assess the terror threat in Singapore.

"We worry about extremist terrorism a lot," he said.

"The Middle East seems a long way away but it is not. This is a problem which is amidst us."

Singaporeans, though few, are among the Malaysians, Indonesians and others from South-east Asia that have gone to the Middle East to join the fight.

Some others have gone to Southern Philippines, Mr Lee noted, and linked up with separatist groups there. They include the Maute, a group that took over Marawi city last month, and the militant Abu Sayyaf group.

Said the Prime Minister: "It is a clear and present danger."

The Philippines had said Singaporeans were among the foreign fighters in the Maute group that attacked Marawi, a largely-Muslim city with more than 200,000 people.

It did not give further details on the Singaporeans or their roles in the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Separately, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry confirmed that a Singaporean man, who has been in southern Philippines since the 1990s, has been implicated in terrorism activities there.

But the ministry said there is no indication the man, who was not identified, is involved in the ongoing insurgency.

Mr Lee also said a potential attack in Singapore "is a matter of when and not whether."

"We assume that one day, something will happen in Singapore and we are doing our best to prepare ourselves."

The measures include preparing the population psychologically and making sure Singapore's multi-racial society does not come under "catastrophic stress", he said.

"The risk is not just the casualties from the physical attack but the psychological damage done to the trust and confidence between people of different races and religions in Singapore, particularly between the Muslims and the non-Muslims," he added.

Mr Lee's comments follows a commitment made by Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen last week at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum.

Dr Ng said Singapore is ready to assist in joint patrols or other counter-terrorism initiatives by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

It is in Singapore's interests to join these efforts because if terrorists gain a foothold in the region, they can spread their violence to other Asean cities, including Singapore, he added.

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on Fighting Terrorism by Mr Desmond Lee, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for National Development - 4 July 2017

First Singaporean woman detained under Internal Security Act for radicalism planned to join Islamic State

2 Singaporean AETOS auxiliary police officers arrested under ISA for terrorism-related offences

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