Counter-Terrorism: Singapore Surprise

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May 29, 2016: For the second time since late 2015 police in Singapore police have arrested a group (eight this time) of Bangladeshi men who thought they could safely train themselves to be more effective Islamic terrorists while in Singapore and then return to Bangladesh and join the few other pro-ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) men there in an effort to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. This comes after the arrest, at the end of 2015 of 27 Bangladeshi Moslem construction workers and charged them with planning terrorist acts outside of Singapore. Most (26) of them were deported back to Bangladesh while one as charged with trying to leave the country illegally (and engage in terrorist acts). All these Bangladeshis were in Singapore temporarily on work visas, mostly for construction related jobs. It is believed these men were radicalized while in Singapore because these jobs are much sought after in Bangladesh and applicants are screened in Bangladesh and Singapore before they are allowed in. All those arrested on terrorism charges are eventually sent back to Bangladesh, along with the evidence Singapore police gathered to justify the arrests. In Bangladesh about half of those sent back are soon released as not being permanently radicalized. The others often turn out to be quite dedicated and are usually prosecuted. 

Singapore can afford to just send these wannabe Islamic terrorists home because it is one of the few industrialized nations to have never experienced an incident of Islamic terrorist violence. That’s because since the 1980s Singapore has spent an increasing amount of resources on dealing with the terrorist threat. This accelerated after 2001 and continues as Islamic terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL continue to mention Singapore as a target for future attacks. There are several interesting reasons why these Islamic terror groups have never been able to touch Singapore. In addition to being isolated, the island city-state of Singapore, with a population of only 5.5 million, has the highest per-capita GDP in Asia. That is largely because Singapore is a very orderly and productive place, which is the environment that nurtures economic growth the most effectively. The locals are very interested in keeping things the way they are. Thus Singapore manages to monitor local Moslems (mostly foreign workers) and regularly hold large scale drills to practice what it would do if there was an Islamic terrorist attack. This is aided by the fact that 15 percent of the population is Moslem (mostly ethnic Malays) who are overwhelmingly opposed to Islamic terrorism and quick to call in any signs of Islamic terrorist activity. All this tends to discourage Islamic terrorists from even trying to carry out attacks inside Singapore. This formidable reputation dates back to the way Singapore handled a 1991 airliner hijacking. Singapore sent in commandos who killed the four Pakistani political activists and the release (unharmed) the 125 passengers and crew being held on the hijacked airliner that landed in Singapore. The four Pakistanis were political activists who hijacked the airliner to try and force the Pakistani government to release fellow activists from jail. The speed, decisiveness and efficiency of the Singaporean response to the hijacking impressed other terrorists, which was what Singapore wanted.

 


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