SINGAPORE, Oct 10 — Seven times more Singaporeans were radicalised in the past year than the period before that, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen as he noted counter-terrorism efforts could go on for a “long time”.
The Islamic State (IS) is losing but Libya, Yemen or “a number of failed states” could be future zones where multinational efforts against terrorism are needed, said Dr Ng yesterday as he presented the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Overseas Service Medal to 75 service personnel involved in overseas operations to Qatar and Kuwait against the militant group.
The enemy could be al-Qaeda, Islamic State or other similar groups that emerge in future, he added.
Dr Ng did not provide specific figures of the number of Singaporeans radicalised but Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in September that more cases of radicalisation have been flagged here. Between 2007 and 2014, six restriction orders and five detention orders under the Internal Security Act were issued; since 2015, six restriction orders and 11 detention orders have been handed out.
Some of the recent cases include the arrest of two Singaporeans in July for intending to undertake armed violence overseas, and maintaining contact with fighters in the Middle East. A Singaporean fighter also appeared in a recent IS propaganda video, possibly the first from the Republic to feature in the terrorist group's recruitment material.
The SAF has participated in counter-terrorism missions for a decade. From 2007 to 2013, it was deployed in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda. Over the past four years, it has joined coalition militaries to deal with IS.
“As we ask ourselves how long this battle will take, we take reference from communism. Communism without God took 50 years to fight. This one (will be) more troublesome. It has been 10 years. I do not know how long more we will battle it. It may be for a long time,” said Dr Ng at the ceremony held at the Mindef auditorium.
“I think we will still be part of the multinational efforts of the simple reason, unless the source of terrorism is neutralised at its beginnings, more and more Singaporeans and other residents, whether in Malaysia, Indonesia and other Asean countries will be radicalised. Now this is exactly what is happening.”
The battle against terrorists is not one that peace-seeking and law-abiding countries like Singapore seek, he noted. But it cannot be avoided “if we are to protect Singaporeans at home”.
SAF servicemen and women have participated as Imagery Analysis Teams to the Combined Joint Task Force, the squadron supporting the KC-135R air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft for the coalition’s air-to-air refuelling operations, and a medical task force now in Iraq.
The KC-135R tanker squadron contributed during a crucial period leading up to the liberation of the key Iraqi state of Mosul from IS in July, and the effort was “deeply appreciated by the coalition aircraft”, said Dr Ng.
As Singapore continues efforts to further weaken the IS in Iraq and Syria, the SAF will step up vigilance in its backyard. Some of the 1,000 IS fighters and their families from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore will return from the Middle East, said Dr Ng.
Singapore has offered military assistance to the Philippine Armed Forces in counter-terrorism efforts and offered the country a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles to enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he said. Singapore has also deployed C-130 aircraft for transport of humanitarian supplies.
The overseas operations help the SAF to sharpen capabilities and gain valuable operational insights, Dr Ng said.
“We do not ask for these opportunities. We certainly are not sending our men and women to harm’s way but if there is a need to protect Singapore and Singaporeans, we will do our best and at the same time, make sure that the SAF learns from these operations”. — TODAY