Singapore risk of a terror attack is at its highest level in recent years, says a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) report titled "Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017".
Although there is no credible intelligence of an imminent attack being planned here, the threat posed by regional terror groups such as Al Qaeda (AQ), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is greater than ever.
The report identified ISIS as the greatest security threat in the region in the last few years. It highlighted the current siege of Marawi City in the Philippines and its potential to turn a whole province in another country into an ISIS wilayat (province).
An increased flow of returning fighters from the wars in the Middle East are also a potential threat, with these fighters more likely to be skilled in attack tactics, more ideologically motivated and able to access terror networks throughout the region and in Syria and Iraq.
Singapore is a key target of the terrorists, says the MHA report.
“We have taken part in international coalitions against terrorism, and we represent many things that are anathema to ISIS,” the report states. “We are a secular democracy. We are also host to many economic and commercial interests belonging to Western nations that ISIS considers as “infidels”. We will continue to be a target as ISIS comes under siege in Syria and Iraq and aims to export its fight overseas in a show of prowess.”
The report listed two foiled attacks in 2016, including one attack aimed at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. One group Katibah Gongong Rebus, acting under the instructions of Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian ISIS militant based in Syria, had planned to launch rockets against MBS. They had planned to launch the rockets from a hill in Batam before they were arrested by Indonesian authorities.
Besides external threats, radicalised individuals within Singapore are also a source of threat. ISIS propaganda poses a threat not only to locals, but to foreigners resident in Singapore.
“Since late 2015, some 40 Bangladeshi nationals in Singapore were found to have been radicalised. They supported the use of violence to pursue their extremist ideology. Several of them were planning to carry out armed violence against the government in Bangladesh.”
Since 2015, 8 Indonesian domestic helpers have also been investigated and deported after they were discovered to be radicalized.
The MHA reiterated that the community must play a part in detecting and reporting radicalized individuals.
“In such cases, it is often family and friends who are first to notice tell-tale behavioural changes... They are thus best-placed to counsel the possibly self-radicalised individuals before they step off the precipice, or to alert the authorities if they are unable to rein in the individuals.”
“In some of the self-radicalisation cases Singapore has detected previously, there have been friends and family members who have knowingly withheld information from the authorities, either out of denial (that there is a problem) or because they believe misguidedly that they are protecting their loved ones. The opposite is true – by alerting the authorities to signs of radicalisation early, friends and family members are in fact helping to save them from harming themselves and those around them.”