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Concerns over security risks after Afghanistan takeover, but S’pore’s policies, laws will help stave off extremism: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has ratcheted up concerns over increased security risks here and in the region, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (Sept 10). However, Singapore’s social and economic system as well as security laws will help the country keep extremism to the margins.

Concerns over security risks after Afghanistan takeover, but S’pore’s policies, laws will help stave off extremism: Shanmugam

Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban had increased concerns about security risks in Singapore and the region.

  • Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has raised concerns over increased security risks in Singapore and the region
  • But it has not triggered an immediate rise in security threats
  • Singapore’s social and economic system, and security laws, will help keep extremism to the margins, he said
  • The country’s ability to deal with terror threats rests on effective intelligence, a zero-tolerance approach and good inter-communal relations
     

SINGAPORE — The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has ratcheted up concerns over increased security risks here and in the region, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday (Sept 10). However, Singapore’s social and economic system as well as security laws will help the country keep extremism to the margins.

Speaking to the media ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, Mr Shanmugam said that the seizure of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul by the Taliban had not precipitated an immediate increase in security threats.

“But this is a strategic issue — it's a mid-term to longer-term issue — and we’ll need to be prepared for that,” he said over video-conferencing platform Zoom. 

The Taliban, an Islamic militant group, had offered sanctuary to Al-Qaeda, the terror group responsible for orchestrating the Sept 11 attacks in the United States that claimed nearly 3,000 lives two decades ago.  

Mr Shanmugam noted that Afghanistan had provided safe harbour for would-be terrorists, including those from Singapore, where they were trained and given access to weapons. 

“Will that happen again? Many people fear that. I fear that might happen again,” he said.

Many security agencies elsewhere are similarly concerned, he added. 

Tens of thousands of people have since fled Afghanistan after the Taliban grabbed power last month, leading to the collapse of its civilian government. 

SINGAPORE’S FIGHT AGAINST TERROR

Back home, Singapore’s ability to deal effectively with terror threats rests on several factors, Mr Shanmugam said.

These factors are effective intelligence, a zero-tolerance approach towards radicalism, and the maintenance of good inter-communal relations and opportunities across a society in which everyone feels they have a stake. 

Augmenting these are laws, particularly the Internal Security Act (ISA), which has allowed the country to round up people suspected to have been radicalised, even as they contemplate and plan attacks. 

That has helped Singapore prevent attacks similar to one that took place in a New Zealand supermarket earlier this month, Mr Shanmugam said.

On Sept 3, a 32-year-old militant known to New Zealand’s authorities stabbed seven people at a supermarket in Auckland, leaving three of them in critical condition. Police later shot him dead

The attacker, who was born in Sri Lanka, had been jailed for about three years before his release in July. 

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to toughen her country’s counter-terrorism laws and pass legislation that criminalises planning and preparation that could result in a terror attack, plugging what has been described as a loophole for would-be terrorists. 

At present, New Zealand’s laws do not allow the authorities to take such plotters to court. 

Pointing to the contrasts between the security laws of Singapore and New Zealand, Mr Shanmugam said: “In Singapore, this man would have been detained under the Internal Security Act, he would not have been released two months ago, and we would have tried to rehabilitate him early and he may well be living now.” 

Every country, however, has to find its own ways to deal with the scourge of terrorism, he added. 

For Singapore, the key is still to ensure that its social and economic policies help retain good opportunities for everyone and that “people feel that they have a stake in the country”. 

Along with the ISA, which allows the authorities to act against dangers to the country’s safety and security, Singapore has so far kept threats low and prevented attacks, and rehabilitated most of the radicalised individuals found here, Mr Shanmugam said. 

Asked how the security agencies here are stepping up efforts to counter possible threats from the fallout in Afghanistan, Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore’s Internal Security Department was keeping watch on activities in the region and farther afield, including in Afghanistan. 

“We map that against what we need to do in Singapore and that's an ongoing thing.” 

Related topics

Afghanistan Taliban terrorism K Shanmugam Internal Security Act

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