Counter-terrorism in Singapore
Counter-terrorism in Singapore is a series of measures implemented in Singapore to detect and prevent terrorism, and to minimise damage from such terrorist acts should they occur. These measures involve all levels of society, including defence, internal security, border and infrastructure security, civil defence, medical readiness, and psychological preparedness. Singapore also participates actively in international counterterrorism efforts.
- 1 Timeline
- 2 Arrest of Jemaah Islamiah members
- 3 Homeland security
- 4 Counter terrorist specialised units
- 5 Additional power to military
- 6 Exercise Northstar V
- 7 Social cohesion
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
These are the events related to terrorism and counter-terrorism in Singapore. Also listed are major terrorist incidents in the world and in Southeast Asia that have influenced counter-terrorism policies in Singapore.
- 31 January – Laju incident
- Concept of Total Defence is introduced.
- The Singapore Special Operations Force (SOF) is formed in secret.
- May – The elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) is formed
- 26 March – Four Pakistanis hijack Singapore Airlines Flight 117 and demand the release of Pakistan Peoples Party members from Pakistani jails.
- 27 March – Members of the Singapore Special Operations Force storm Singapore Airlines Flight 117, killing all hijackers and freeing all passengers and crew members.
- 10 September – Special Operations Command (SOC) is formed, combining the Police Tactical Team (PTT), Police Tactical Unit (PTU) and Police Dog Unit under one wing.
- 11 September- September 11 attacks happened at World Trade Centre of New York City in the United States, resulting in the death of 3,000 people.
- 9 December – 15 militants of Jemaah Islamiyah are arrested for the Singapore embassies attack plot 
- August – Singapore arrests another 21 members of Jemaah Islamiyah.
- 12 October – Bali car bombing by Jemaah Islamiah kills 202 people in the Indonesian island.
- 17 January – Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive Defence Group conducts Exercise Diamond Shield to demonstrate chemical and biological defence capability.
- March – Chemical Verification Laboratory is certified by Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as a designated laboratory for the testing of chemical warfare agents
- 11 August – Riduan Isamuddin (Hambali), leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, is arrested in Thailand.
- 14 August – Air Marshal Unit is formed to counter terrorism threats against civil aviation 
- 1 October – The first Special Rescue Battalion of the Singapore Civil Defence Force is formed 
- 27 February – SuperFerry 14 is bombed in the Philippines by Abu Sayyaf, killing 116.
- 11 March – Coordinated bombing of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, kills 191 people and injures more than 1,500.
- 21 March – Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi leads UMNO to a resounding victory in the General Elections, checking the advance of Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) that aims to establish Malaysia as an Islamist theocratic country.
- 6 May – Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong delivers a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. titled "Beyond Madrid: Winning Against Terrorism". 
- 7 July – London suicide bombings on one double-decker bus (London Buses route 30) and three London Underground trains, killing 55+ people and injuring over 700.
- 15 August – The newly established Police MRT Unit (now known as the Public Transport Security Command) begins operational patrols on the Mass Rapid Transit network to enhance the security of Singapore's public transport
- 15 August – Singapore hosts a multi-national maritime interdiction exercise, codenamed Exercise Deep Sabre as part of the Proliferation Security Initiative.
- 25 August – French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière singles out Singapore along with Tokyo and Sydney as potential terrorism targets of the Al-Qaeda.  Ministry of Home Affairs later denied receiving any specific information on imminent terrorist threat.
- 1 October – A series of explosions kills at least 23 in resort areas of Jimbaran Beach and Kuta in Bali, Indonesia.
- 21 November – 25 – Singapore hosts the Regional Special Forces Counter-Terrorism Conference.
- 8 January – Exercise Northstar V, a large scale terrorism exercise; similar to 7 July 2005 London bombings which affects train and bus services, is commonly held in Singapore.
- 6 July to 30 September – Exercise Northstar VII, large scale terrorism exercise which is also similar to 2008 Mumbai attacks, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and 1999 Columbine High School massacre, has been held in Singapore. Places that had been involved are VivoCity, Café del Mar (Sentosa), Raffles Place, Bedok, Tampines, Choa Chu Kang, Jurong East and Orchard Road. This affects tourist attractions, schools, housing estates, shopping centres, hotels and MRT station. In total; 173 people were injured and 100 people were killed. This is the deadliest exercise in the history.
- 6 July: Café del – 20 Mar injured, 10 killed
- 7 July: Raffles Place MRT Station – 54 injured, 26 killed, 1 terrorist arrested, 1 terrorist killed
- 7 July: Orchard Road – 61 injured, 35 killed, 4 terrorists killed
- 7 July: HarbourFront/VivoCity – 61 injured, 22 killed, 3 terrorists killed
- 11 July: Tampines Primary School (TPS E-Hub) – 35 injured, 15 killed, 1 terrorist arrested, 1 terrorist killed
- 15 July: Rasa Sentosa Resort – 28 injured, 5 terrorists killed, 1 police officer injured, 2 AV crews injured
- 26 July: Ashford Station/Blk 131 Tampines Street 11 – 20 injured, much of the terrorists killed
- 26 August: Concord Primary School – 14 injured, 11 killed
- 30 September: Science Centre – 1 terrorist committed suicide
- 19 May – A marked map of the SMRT network with Orchard station circled on it was found in the home of a terror suspect killed in Indonesia; it was reported that he had planned an attack on Singapore by entering through Malaysia.
- 9 November – Exercise Times Square Conducted. The exercise, named after a car bomb attack in May 2010 at New York's Times Square which was foiled by public vigilance, involved similar circumstances whereby suspicious looking cars were placed in nine locations across Singapore. The findings of the exercise revealed that public vigilance was extremely low, as only 52 out of 7,200 passers-by contacted the authorities.
- 3 October to 15 November – Exercise Heartbeat 2012 was conducted. It is being placed at remote locations, such as ION Orchard, Marina Centre, Marina Bay and Sentosa.
- 18 November – Exercise Heartbeat 2013, it was also conducted. It is being placed at random locations, such as Greenview Secondary School, ITE College Central, Plaza Singapura, one-North and Raffles Place SSWG buildings. Two gunmen carjacked the police car at Raffles Place after opening fire, and drove to Queenstown. They finally reached Queenstown Secondary School and the gunmen were shot dead by the police officers. Police officers confiscated the explosive devices from what it was left.
- Exercise Heartbeat 2014 might be conducted. It will be at ITE College East, Temasek Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic.
Arrest of Jemaah Islamiah members
The main terrorist threat to Singapore is from Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has links to al-Qaeda and Abu Sayyaf. Jemaah Islamiah is known to have carried the Bali bombing in 2002, which has killed 202 people, as well as the Jakarta bombing in 2004 outside the Australian embassy, killing 11 people.
After the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, an informant revealed to the Singapore Internal Security Department regarding Muhammad Aslam Yar Ali Khan, a Singaporean of Pakistani descent, who was a member of a group partnered with Al-Qaeda. Muhammad Aslam Yar Ali Khan was placed under surveillance by Singapore Internal Security Department, after which he left for Pakistan on 4 October. This man was captured by Afghan Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. His interrogation led investigators to more Jemaah Islamiah members in Singapore.
On 9 December 2001, 13 suspects were arrested. Soon after that, a video found in an abandoned house in Kabul, Afghanistan showed a narrator in Singapore describing how to attack Americans using explosives. Investigators found similar tapes at the residences of the arrested men. In all, 33 men were arrested in relation to this plot. 
In August 2002, another 21 members of Jemaah Islamiyah were arrested, demolishing JI's Singaporean cell. Arrests were also made in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. As of 11 November 2005, 36 alleged members of JI or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were being detained under the Internal Security Act.
However, Singapore believes that Jemaah Islamiyah remains active in Southeast Asia and is recruiting new members.
On 25 August 2005, French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière singled out Singapore along with Tokyo and Sydney as potential terrorism targets of the Al-Qaeda.  The Ministry of Home Affairs later responded that it had not received any specific information on imminent terrorist threat against Singapore, but added that security measures have been taken to strengthen security at borders, key infrastructure and iconic buildings. 
The Singapore Police Force has in recent years enhanced security at various locations in the country.
On 15 August 2005, the newly established Police MRT Unit began operational patrols on the Mass Rapid Transit network to protect the public transportation system. Personnel from the Special Operations Command (SOC) and the Gurkha Contingent (GC) have also been deployed to complement other police officers on patrol. In addition, the Police Coast Guard (PCG) stepped up its effort to inspect ferries and other vessels in Singapore territorial waters.
On 26 October 2005, Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence S Jayakumar announced that Singapore was developing an early warning system, called the Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning, to identify and assess new emerging threats to national security. The system, developed by the National Security Coordination Secretariat, will be put in place by mid-2007.
Counter terrorist specialised units
At the forefront in the fight against terrorism are specialised military, law enforcement, and civil defence units, namely:
- Singapore Special Operations Force,
- Special Operations Command,
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive Defence Group
Additional power to military
In May 2007, the parliament passed an amendment to the SAF Act, giving additional powers to the Singapore Armed Forces. A selected group of about 2,000 SAF personnel will be trained to perform security operations in designated areas. These personnel, identified by a Military Security identification card, will be able to search, detain and use reasonable force against terror suspects.
Exercise Northstar V
On 8 January 2006, a large scale emergency preparedness exercise was conducted. Codenamed Exercise Northstar V, it involved 22 agencies and 2,000 emergency personnel. An additional 3,400 commuters also participated in the exercise. The exercise involved a simulated terrorist bomb attack on four MRT stations and one bus interchange. There were 500 mock casualties suffering from "injuries" caused by the "explosions" as well as chemical agents. The exercise is the largest civil emergency exercise ever staged in the country.
Exercise Northstar V is part of the counter-terrorism effort in Singapore, aiming to test the readiness, effectiveness and co-ordination of the relevant agencies in responding to civil emergency, in particular a large scale multi-location terrorist attack. The exercise also aimed to raise the psychological preparedness of the public in the event of a terrorist attack.
The exercise is prompted by the recent terrorist attacks on public transport in other countries, namely the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004, which raise security concerns in public infrastructure. Singapore was the target of the foiled plan by Jemaah Islamiyah to bomb embassies and other installations.
The scenario of the exercise is similar to the London bombings with near-simultaneous bomb blasts in the trains and a bus. Earlier, officers from the Singapore Police Force were sent to London to study the British responses to the bombings.
The public were pre-warned that the exercise would be held during a weekend in January 2006 and the participating agencies were given as many as six months to prepare. However, the exact date, time and locations of the exercise were not disclosed until 15 minutes before the drill commenced.
However, there were some public complaints of authorities' overzealous enforcement of rules. One recent example involved airport security officers detaining a family of four for using the word "bomb" in Singapore Changi Airport. In addition, Lin Zhenghuang was charged in court on 11 February 2007; for their bomb hoax at Toa Payoh Bus Interchange through their online postings.
Conduct of the exercise
The exercise started at 6:25 am local time on 8 January 2006, a Sunday, and lasted about three hours. To avoid public panic, announcements were made at the affected train stations as well as on television and radio, just before the exercise began. Prominent signages were also displayed.
Mock explosive devices, such as thunderflashes were detonated near-simultaneously in subway trains and station platforms at four MRT stations (Dhoby Ghaut, Toa Payoh, Raffles Place and Marina Bay) and in a double decker bus at Toa Payoh Bus Interchange. A chemical agent attack was then simulated at Dhoby Ghaut at 6:45 am. An undetonated mock bomb was also placed at the Raffles Place. About 3,400 commuters who were on board the subway trains were evacuated during the drill. Services at 13 MRT stations were temporarily disrupted and roads within the vicinity were also closed to traffic. Shuttle buses were used to ferry commuters affected by the exercise.
Thunderflashes, smoke generators, and fire simulators were used to simulate the explosion and 500 simulated casualties were deployed to test emergency rescuers at the scene. These mock casualties carried tags to provide paramedics information on the extent of their injuries and these includes injuries related to bomb blasts, such as open wounds and burns. There were also some with injuries related to chemical agents. Dummy mannequins were also used to simulate casualties. 7 hospitals and 2 polyclinics were also involved in the drill as they received the mock casualties. In two hospitals, Singapore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, healthcare workers donned decontamination suits as they prepared to treat victims of chemical agents suspected to be sarin gas.
Officers from the London Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police, including Chief Constable Ian Johnston, were present to observe the exercise and to provide feedback to the authorities.
Following the crackdown on the local Jemaah Islamiyah cell, then-Deputy-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong held dialogues with the leaders of the Muslim community. Details of the investigation were shared to explain that the arrests were not targeted at the Singapore Muslim community, or Islam. In schools and workplaces, inter-racial confidence circles were formed to promote inter-racial and inter-religious understanding between the different racial and religious communities, while Islamic scholars and counselors in Singapore participated in the rehabilitation of the detained JI members.
- "Orchard MRT targeted". The Straits Times (Singapore). 19 May 2010.
- "If you see a car smoking, what will you do?". MyPaper. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
- "Islamic militant detained in Singapore under Internal Security Act – govt". AFX News Limited. 11 November 2005.
- "Singapore sets up new centre to enhance risk assessment capability". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- Asha Popatlal (21 May 2007). "SAF given new powers to deal with changed security landscape". Channel NewsAsia.
- "Twenty-two agencies in Exercise Northstar V ready for action". Channel NewsAsia. 3 January 2006.
- Official news release: Multi-agency Civil Emergency Exercise – Singapore Civil Defence Force, 8 January 2006
- Official news release: British Transport Police observe Exercise NorthStar V – Channel News Asia, 8 January 2006
- White Paper – The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and The Threat of Terrorism, Singapore
- “Constructing” the Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist: A Preliminary Inquiry (PDF) – Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore, October 2004
- Maritime Couner-Terrorism: A Singapore Perspective (PDF) – Joshua Ho, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore, 2004
- Beyond Madrid: Winning Against Terrorism – Speech by Goh Chok Tong at the Council on Foreign Relations (6 May 2004)
- Funding Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Financial Network of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (PDF) – National Bureau of Asian Research (December 2003)
- Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but Still Dangerous – International Crisis Group (26 August 2003)
- Declaring JI a terror group is starting point in fight against terror: Dr Gunaratna – Channel NewsAsia (2 October 2005)
- Asean leaders ink terrorism pact