Terror threat 'is real and we must be prepared for it'

As terrorism stalks the world, the Government will do its best to prevent any such attack in Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But it cannot say for sure that a terror attack could never happen here, he added.

In the event that it does, Mr Lee believes the greatest damage would not be in the number of direct casualties from the attack "but the trust and the confidence that we have built up over the years between the communities".

He made the point in an interview on Wednesday with Singapore reporters, who had asked him about the terror threat.

As part of its preventive measures, the Government is closely watching developments abroad like the rise of the militant group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), he said.

It is also keeping an eye on self-radicalised individuals, and tries to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a disaster.

At the same time, it strives to educate Singaporeans about the threat and prepare them for it.

"We should not be completely shocked should we have an incident happen either here or close to us," he said.

He noted that the Government held regular dialogues on the topic with leaders of various communities.

Last November, he met Muslim and non-Muslim community leaders to talk about ISIS, and said several hundred individuals from South-east Asia, including a few self-radicalised Singaporeans, had gone to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the militants there.

When they return home, they pose a threat to the region.

Said Mr Lee: "Indonesia has a very serious problem, hundreds of people have gone to the Middle East.

"Malaysia has quite a serious problem, they have dozens of people who have gone to the Middle East, Iraq and Syria, including several who have actually committed suicide bombings."

"In Singapore, can I say that it will never happen? I cannot say that," he added, referring to the possibility of a terror attack.

"What I can do is to try my best to prepare people to minimise the chance, and to prepare people psychologically so that if it happens, we are not completely shocked and stunned, and we also are able to maintain the ties between the communities and we keep our multiracial fabric."

This article was first published on January 17, 2015.
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