Counter-terrorism in Singapore

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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.


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.


10 March – MacDonald House bombing by Indonesian saboteurs killed 3 people, during the konfrontasi period.












  • 8 January – Exercise Northstar V, a large scale counter-terrorism exercise similar to 7 July 2005 London bombings, was held in Singapore.



  • 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.[1]
  • 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.[2]


  • 3 October to 15 November – Exercise Heartbeat 2012 was conducted. It was placed at locations, such as ION Orchard, Marina Centre, Marina Bay and Sentosa.


  • 18 November – Exercise Heartbeat 2013 was conducted, placed at random locations, such as Greenview Secondary School, ITE College Central, Plaza Singapura, one-North and Raffles Place SSWG buildings. In this exercise, two "gunmen" hijacked a police car after opening fire at Raffles Place, and then drove away. The gunmen were later shot dead by the police officers at Queenstown Secondary School. Police officers later confiscated the explosive devices.


  • 3 April - Exercise Heartbeat 2014 is conducted at Temasek Polytechnic.
  • 10 October - Exercise Heartbeat 2014 is conducted at ITE College East.
  • 26 October & 27 October - Exercise Heartbeat 2014 is conducted at Tampines GreenTerrace, Downtown MRT Station, Marina Bay Link Mall, IMM Building, Blk 287A Jurong East Street 21, ITE College West and Fengshan area. It had simulated grenade explosion at IMM Building and Downtown MRT Station, hostage-taking and gunmen firing at Marina Bay Link Mall, IMM Building, Blk 287A Jurong East Street 21 and ITE College West. Next to Blk 84 Bedok North Road Market also had the car on fire, part of Exercise Heartbeat 2014. At Tampines GreenTerrace; a Traffic Police car caught fire.


  • 27 January - Due to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the Sydney hostage crisis; Exercise Heartbeat 2015 was conducted at Eastpoint Mall and Northpoint Shopping Centre.
  • 18 November - After the November 2015 Paris attacks, President Tony Tan expressed his condolences saying "As France mourns the victims, Singapore stands in solidarity with the French people in this difficult time" while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong condemned the attacks, calling them "heinous" and "an attack on our shared humanity."[3] Within days, the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence continued Exercise Heartbeat 2015 with emergency preparedness exercises on 18 November 2015 at Toa Payoh HDB Hub and Marina Bay One Marina Boulevard (OMB) and City Hall Esplanade Park,[4] as well as at Sentosa on 23 November 2015.[5][6]


  • 30 June - The Minister of Defence announced the formation of the Army Deployment Force, which is a battalion-sized unit fully staffed with regular SAF servicemen. The unit will respond rapidly to terrorist attacks in Singapore alongside the Home Team. It will also work with the Island Defence Task Force and Special Operations Task Force in times of emergencies. It may be activated for overseas humanitarian or peace support operations.[7]
  • 14 October - A 41-year-old man has been arrested for suspected involvement in the fire that destroyed a wet market and two coffee shops in Jurong in the wee hours of Tuesday. Police were alerted at 2.42am to the fire, which left stallholders without their livelihoods, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars a day. Police said that they arrested the suspect in Jurong West Street 41 on Thursday.


  • 17 October - The Singapore Armed Forces staged the largest counter-terror exercise in the nation's history. The SAF was deployed to defend against mock attacks at key installations around the island. Home Team and the Singapore Civil Defense Force were deployed to counter a mock hostage taking at Bishan Mall. The exercise was the largest in Singaporean history, involving over 3200 officers. It was conducted with the mission statement to raise public awareness of "the current threat landscape and to encourage continued vigilance."[9][10]

Arrest of Jemaah Islamiah members[edit]

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 out the Bali bombing in 2002, which 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 information 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. [7]

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.[11]

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. [8] 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. [9]

Homeland security[edit]

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.[12]

Counter terrorist specialised units[edit]

At the forefront in the fight against terrorism are specialised military, law enforcement, and civil defence units, namely:

Additional power to military[edit]

In May 2007, the parliament passed an amendment to the SAF Act, giving additional powers to the Singapore Armed Forces. A select 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.[13]

Exercise Northstar V[edit]

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.[14]

Conduct of the exercise[edit]

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 this 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.[15]

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.[16]

Social cohesion[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Orchard MRT targeted". The Straits Times. Singapore. 19 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "If you see a car smoking, what will you do?". MyPaper. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  3. ^ "Singapore leaders send condolence letters to French counterparts following Paris attacks". Channel News Asia. 14 November 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Ngau, Kai Yan. "Exercise Heartbeat in pictures: Simulated terror drill at the heart of Singapore". Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "EXERCISE HEARTBEAT 2015". SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "The Straits Times - Paris attacks give Home Team exercise new significance". Government of Singapore. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "S'pore stages its biggest anti-terror exercise". 
  10. ^ "Simulated attacks at multiple locations test Singapore's counter-terrorism response". 
  11. ^ "Islamic militant detained in Singapore under Internal Security Act – govt". AFX News Limited. 11 November 2005. 
  12. ^ "Singapore sets up new centre to enhance risk assessment capability". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Asha Popatlal (21 May 2007). "SAF given new powers to deal with changed security landscape". Channel NewsAsia. 
  14. ^ "Twenty-two agencies in Exercise Northstar V ready for action". Channel NewsAsia. 3 January 2006. 
  15. ^ Official news release: Multi-agency Civil Emergency ExerciseSingapore Civil Defence Force, 8 January 2006
  16. ^ Official news release: British Transport Police observe Exercise NorthStar VChannel News Asia, 8 January 2006

External links[edit]