SINGAPORE - Singapore will play its part in the multinational coalition battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by contributing personnel and equipment, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on Monday.
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Dr Ng was responding to Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC) who had asked whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will consider joining the broad coalition currently combating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and in what ways will the SAF contribute towards this effort.
Below is the reply by Dr Ng:
Madam, the threat of jihadist terrorism is transnational; it extends across continents and beyond the confines of territorial borders.
Singapore as an international hub is particularly exposed to this threat. Members of the public are well aware of it. In 2001; the Internal Security Department disrupted a terrorist plot by Al-Qaeda (AQ) to mount suicide bombings in Singapore. This was with the help of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network. This clearly showed that even terrorist groups that are based in countries far away can pose a direct security threat to Singapore here.
In the last decade, Singapore responded to the terrorist threat from AQ and JI by dealing with it squarely, explaining to all Singaporeans what is at stake. We strengthened our social, psychological and physical defences at home and joined other countries to deal with forces in Iraq and Afghanistan which were the sources of the radicalisation and terror. As a result both AQ and JI are weaker today.
However, this terrorism threat is a long term one. And new groups like ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) will emerge even as existing ones falter. When they do, we must not lose focus or heart in dealing with the threat from ISIS. We must continue the approach that has served Singapore well and protected us thus far.
Like AQ and JI, ISIS is a terrorist organisation that poses a direct security threat to Singapore, our region and the rest of the world. ISIS was in fact Al-Qaeda in Iraq before it splintered to become an independent organisation.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo has provided extensive details on the threat from ISIS in his replies to members' questions in this house in July and October. I do not intend to repeat his points, but with the speaker's permission, to circulate the relevant portion of his previous replies for your reference.
Approximately 350 Southeast Asians, including from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are reportedly in Iraq and Syria. 350 Southeast Asians. Many of them have joined ISIS and may return to threaten our security here, as the commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces warned recently.
The threats to our region are indeed real.
Some Malaysians and Indonesians are fighting for ISIS and have formed the militant group from the archipelago, from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In other words, an archipelagic group here. This group adds to the threat from existing terrorist networks such as JI.
Leaders from organised militant groups in this region such as Abu Bakar Bashir in Indonesia have also pledged allegiance to ISIS and declared their similar intent to establish an Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
In Malaysia, the authorities arrested militants in April this year and these militants were inspired by ISIS and had planned to attack pubs, a disco and a beer brewery in Malaysia.