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It’s when, not if: Singapore worries, and prepares, for militant attack

Monitor News Bureau

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SINGAPORE: Armed officers patrol a train station where television screens and giant posters warn of the threat from militants. Nearby, fake gunmen storm a shopping mall in one of many recent terror attack simulations.
But this is not some war-ravaged country. It is one of the safest in the world, Singapore.
The wealthy island-state has a near-perfect record of keeping its shores free from terror, but as it prepares to host defence ministers from around Southeast Asia this week, it appears to have good reason to have prioritised stopping the spread of militancy in the region.
The cosmopolitan financial hub, which was second only to Tokyo in The Economist Intelligence Units Safe Cities Index in 2017, says it has been the target of militant plots for years, some stemming from its Muslim-majority neighbours, and that its a matter of when and not if militants will strike.
“Singapore continues to face a serious security threat from both homegrown radicalised individuals and foreign terrorists who continue to see Singapore as a prized target,” Singapores Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in response to e-mailed questions from Reuters.
Singapore authorities say they have been a target of Islamic extremism since the 1990s, but efforts to deter terrorism have stepped up markedly in recent years with more frequent attacks on Western countries and after Islamic State (IS) militants briefly took over a town in the southern Philippines last year.
Raising further concerns about the threat to the island, a Singaporean soldier has featured on a number of Islamic State promotional videos, most recently in December where he was filmed executing men alongside other militants.
In its inaugural Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released last year, the MHA said Islamic State has demonstrated that Singapore is "very much on its radar" and that the threat to the country remains "the highest in recent years" - claims that are backed up by security experts.
"Singapore, being known as safe and secure, makes it such a risk target," said Dan Bould, Asia director of crisis management at professional services firm Aon and a former captain in the British army.
"If there
s an attack in the Philippines, it may get half an hour in a 24-hour news cycle. An attack in Singapore with all the multicultural individuals operating here, will be within the narrative for a few days at least.”
In early 2017, Aon lifted Singapore in the terrorism and political violence category of its annual risk map from negligible to low risk.
The reality is that Singapore has so far escaped the attacks seen in other major world cities like New York, London and Berlin in recent years. Thats why it is at the bottom of the 2017 Global Terror Index, with no reported terror-related attacks post 9/11.
But three in four Singaporeans believe that it
s only a matter of time before the country experiences a terror attack, a poll by the local newspaper Sunday Times last year showed.
Singapore authorities certainly do not want their citizens to be complacent. Everyone, including school children, is encouraged to download a mobile app that alerts them to emergency situations and allows them to send in videos and photos of suspicious events.
The MHA said that as of the end of last year, more than 1.3 million devices were equipped with the SGSecure app, a large chunk of the population of around 5.6 million.
Simulations of terror attacks – including one just over a week ago where masked gunman stormed a childrens activity centre on the resort island of Sentosa - are regular. Last month, Singapores military undertook its biggest mobilisation exercise in more than three decades, including an inter-agency response to the simulation of a gunman at its national stadium.
Authorities said last year there was reliable information that IS militants were considering carrying out an attack in Singapore in the first half of 2016, a threat which they said was countered.
In August 2016, neighbouring Indonesia, which has the worlds largest Muslim population, arrested six suspects with links to IS who were accused of plotting rocket attacks on Singapores iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel.
Malaysia, Singapore`s northern neighbour which also has a Muslim-majority, and Indonesia say thousands of their citizens sympathize with IS and hundreds are believed to have travelled to Syria to join the group. Regional security officials say many are returning home after reverses in the Middle East.


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International

Pakistan exporting ‘terror’, stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains: India at UNSC

Press Trust of India

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UNITED NATIONS: India lashed out at Pakistan for raising the issue of women’s rights in Kashmir in the UN Security Council, saying the country represents a system that has been exporting militancy and “regressive” extremist ideologies and “stifling” women’s voices for narrow political gains.

India’s strong response came after Pakistan’s outgoing UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi commented on the situation in Kashmir, revocation of Article 370 and women’s rights in the Valley during the debate on October 29.

“As everyone today focuses on collective action, one delegation rhetorically regurgitates about women’s rights in my country,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said Monday at a Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security.

 

Without naming Pakistan, Tripathi said the delegation “represents a system that has been exporting terrorism and regressive extremist ideologies, and stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains. This has devastated lives of generations of women and their families, in our region and beyond.”

Alluding to Islamabad’s habit of raking up the Kashmir issue at various UN forums and committees, Tripathi said the country habitually makes baseless allegations without any relevance to the agenda under consideration and this has “become a staple for this delegation.”

She referred to Lodhi’s comments on Jammu and Kashmir during the October 29 debate as well as during a previous debate on the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.

Asserting that India firmly rejects the baseless allegations, Tripathi said “the Council has not paid attention to such deceitful narratives in the past, and we are confident that the Council will continue to do so, to ensure that its agenda is not used as a ploy for furthering territorial ambitions.”

In her remarks to the debate, Tripathi underscored that violence against women and girls perpetrated by terrorists remain rampant and subjugation of women in public and in private spheres continue across situations that are on the agenda of the Council.

“It is important that the Council strives to effectively integrate women, peace and security considerations into sanctions regimes, including by listing terrorist entities involved in violence against women in armed conflicts,” she said.

Further, Tripathi highlighted the positive impacts of greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping but voiced concern that women make up only 4.2 per cent of military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

“We ought to encourage participation of all women units to achieve the set targets in this regard,” she said.

Tripathi pointed out that a trend in which in order to accommodate those who cannot fulfill the commitments of providing all women units to peacekeeping missions, mixed units are being given preference by diluting the policy frameworks.

“If this continues, we possibly cannot achieve the set targets,” she said as she added that India remains committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and has deployed a Female Engagement Team in UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) earlier this year.

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Rajnath Singh arrives in Moscow to boost defence cooperation with Russia

Agencies

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Moscow: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday arrived in Moscow on a three-day visit to Russia where he will discuss modalities pertaining to defence co-production between the two countries.

During his visit, the Defence Minister will co-chair the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) here.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, Singh is expected to hold extensive discussions with Defence Minister of Russia General Sergei Shoigu covering all areas of military-to-military cooperation and defence industrial cooperation.

 

He will also inaugurate, along with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, ‘India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference’.

The Conference will discuss ways to promote defence industrial cooperation between India and Russia, technology transfer and investment in India in the defence industry under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to visit St Petersburg where he will place a wreath at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery honouring the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Last week, Singh had travelled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he represented India at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

India and Uzbekistan signed three MoUs pertaining to military education and military medicine.

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UN chief continues to call for Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue

Press Trust of India

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to call for the Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue, saying any solution should be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people living in the Valley, his spokesperson has said.

Guterres will engage whenever he can with the two nations on the issue, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing here Thursday.

“The Secretary-General… has discussed the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India, during the General Assembly and before,” he said.

 

Responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir, Dujarric said the UN chief has called and will continue to call for “the situation to be resolved through dialogue and that any solution be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people who live in Kashmir. So, that continues to be his position”.

Last month, the UN chief said that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for resolving the Kashmir issue and his good offices are available if both sides ask for it while calling for the full respect of human rights.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan. The Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

On August 5, India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Several security restrictions were imposed in Kashmir as well as Jammu following the decision.

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