Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Fight against terror 'far from over', says PM Lee on 20th anniversary of Sept 11 attacks

SINGAPORE — The fight against terrorism is "far from over", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, two decades after Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked American planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the United States' military headquarters, the Pentagon.

Fight against terror 'far from over', says PM Lee on 20th anniversary of Sept 11 attacks

In this file photo taken on Sept 11, 2001, a hijacked commercial aircraft approaches the twin towers of the World Trade Center shortly before crashing into the landmark skyscraper in New York.

  • Mr Lee noted how Singaporeans had rallied together in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks
  • Racial harmony in Singapore is still a "work in progress", he said
  • Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans to "never assume we have overcome for good the tendency of people to identify with their own racial and religious groups"

 

SINGAPORE — The fight against terrorism is "far from over", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, two decades after Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked American planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the United States' military headquarters, the Pentagon.

The Sept 11 attacks in 2001 also "showed how powerful are the forces that can pull us apart", he said, as he urged Singaporeans to "never assume we have overcome for good the tendency of people to identify with their own racial and religious groups".

In a commentary written on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which was sent to the media here, Mr Lee recalled how, in the aftermath of the attacks, Singapore had tightened security measures to prepare for the worst.

"The dangers appeared far sooner and nearer than we had imagined. We discovered right here among us a terrorist group having a common ideology and direct links with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group," he wrote.

"On 9/11, JI members were already in advanced planning for simultaneous truck bomb attacks on multiple targets in Singapore, including the US Embassy and other Western interests."

For multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore, terrorism was "not just a threat to our physical safety", Mr Lee pointed out.

"The greater danger was to our mutual trust and social cohesion," he said.

"In the face of jihadist terrorism, and especially after several Singaporean members of the JI were detained, non-Muslims in Singapore could easily have become fearful and suspicious of their Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends.

"And Muslims in turn, feeling distrusted and threatened, could have closed in on themselves. We would have been divided by race and religion. And if an attack had actually taken place here, our society could have been torn apart."

Instead, he noted how Singaporeans "instinctively pulled together, and responded strongly and cohesively to keep ourselves safe".

Singaporeans' efforts were vital, Mr Lee said, as the threat was real and continuing, and the country itself remains a prime target.

He gave a reminder of how terrorists had planned attacks on Singapore, including one to hijack and crash an airliner into the Changi Airport control tower, and another to launch rockets at Marina Bay Sands from Batam. Both attacks were pre-empted.

Two decades after the Sept 11 attacks, extremist terrorism has "metastasised", Mr Lee said, using the term commonly used to describe the spread of cancer cells.

"Digital media has amplified the poison. Al Qaeda was succeeded by Isis (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), which has lost physical territory but continues to operate, including online," he said.

"Lone wolf attackers have self-radicalised on the internet. Some are jihadists, but others espouse other violent rabid ideologies."

Mr Lee noted that this year, two self-radicalised Singaporean youth who were preparing lone-wolf attacks — one on a synagogue and the other on mosques — had been arrested.

"And now that the US has left Afghanistan, we will have to watch closely how the situation there develops, whether groups based in Afghanistan will again threaten our security, and where else new fronts of terrorism may emerge." 

In the meantime, racial harmony in Singapore is still a "work in progress", Mr Lee pointed out.

"9/11 showed how powerful are the forces that can pull us apart, and how careful we must be when making any changes to the formula that has delivered racial and religious harmony for Singapore," he said.

"Never assume we have overcome for good the tendency of people to identify with their own racial and religious groups. We have to keep on bringing all the communities closer together, and from time to time adjust the delicate balance that the different communities have reached."

Singaporeans’ shared experience of the Sept 11 attacks and their aftermath is "another formative chapter in our nation building journey", Mr Lee added.

"On its 20th anniversary, let us resolve to fortify ourselves so that should we ever face another such test one day, we will come through again, stronger, as one united people." 

Related topics

Lee Hsien Loong Sept 11 terrorism al Qaeda Jemaah Islamiyah

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa