No signs of heightened security threat: DPM Teo

No signs of heightened security threat: DPM Teo
DPM Teo Chee Hean.

There are no indications of a heightened security threat to Singapore following its deployment of personnel to support the multinational coalition combating the terrorist threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

But the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq has meant that the overall threat level for every country is greater, added Mr Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs and Coordinating Minister for National Security.

He was replying in Parliament to Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam on how the Government is handling the ISIS threat to Singapore.

Mr Teo said that while security agencies in Singapore share watch-lists and information with their foreign counterparts, these efforts do not guarantee a foolproof way of preventing the entry of foreign terrorists.

This is particularly the case if the terrorist had not previously attracted the attention of security agencies, said Mr Teo, citing French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who attacked a Jewish museum last year and killed four people.

He had spent a year fighting in Syria, and to cover his tracks, travelled through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before returning to Europe.

"This is compounded by the large number of individuals from many different countries - more than 15,000 in total - who have taken part in the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq, plus others who have been indoctrinated in extremist ideology or trained in violent methods elsewhere," Mr Teo said.

Like other countries, Singapore reserves the right to deny a traveller entry to its shores if he does not have a bona fide reason to be here, he added.

"Singapore also subscribes to Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database, which allows us to identify anyone who uses a lost or stolen passport to mask his real identity," he said.

Home-grown and "lone- wolf" terrorism are problems as well because ISIS uses social media and the Internet effectively to both recruit foreign fighters and encourage attacks by their overseas supporters on home soil, said Mr Teo.

He added that "our community and religious organisations have put in considerable effort to counter the radical ideology of ISIS" and terrorists.

"They recognise the importance of tackling the problem ideologically, to complement security action by the authorities," he said. Singapore, he added, will hold a symposium in April to share best practices with other countries on ways to counter the terrorists' radical ideology.

Last November, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Singapore would contribute a tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling and an imagery analysis team to support the coalition against ISIS.

Dr Ng also gave an update to Parliament last week that Singapore Armed Forces planners will be deployed in the next few months, and a pre-deployment site survey team will be sent to the region to prepare for the deployment of the tanker aircraft.

yanliang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 30, 2015.
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