SINGAPORE - Singapore said Monday it would provide military support to the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) group but would not take part in combat operations.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told parliament the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would deploy officers to the US Central Command and the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters spearheading the campaign in Iraq and Syria.
The SAF will also deploy a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker for air-to-air refuelling as well as an imagery analysis team.
"There will be no combat troops in Iraq and Syria, instead SAF soldiers will operate from surrounding countries together with other coalition forces," Ng said without providing the number being deployed.
Singapore, which has one of Asia's best-equipped armed forces, has long considered itself a prime target for Islamic militants, particularly those operating in Southeast Asia.
The US military operates a post in the city-state that helps in logistics and exercises for its forces in Southeast Asia.
Ng said that by joining the international coalition, "we are contributing directly to our own security".
He recalled that Al Qaeda-linked militants from the Jemaah Islamiyah network had plotted to bomb the US embassy and other foreign targets in Singapore in 2002. The plot was foiled after police arrested several suspects.
Singapore, a tiny island-nation of 5.5 million, is one of Asia's leading financial and transportation hubs. It is host to thousands of multinational corporations and a large expatriate community.
Ng said local authorities are concerned about the potential formation of a Southeast Asian branch of IS, with jihadists from the region returning home after fighting in Iraq and Syria.
About 350 Southeast Asians, including some from Singapore as well as Malaysia and Indonesia, are currently fighting in the Middle East, he said.
"Many of them have joined ISIS and may return to threaten our security here... the threats to our region are indeed real," Ng said, using another acronym for the Islamic State.
Singapore will join 33 other nations committed to the US-led fight against the group.