S’pore ‘one of the few in Asia taking terrorism seriously’

SINGAPORE is one of the few countries in Asia that are dealing “very aggressively” with the threat of terrorism.

Mr Richard Lawless, the departing US Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for Asia, said that the challenge for Washington was to keep countries in the region – many of which did not see themselves as threatened – engaged in the war on terror.

“I don’t think the scale of our commitment to the international war on terrorism is necessarily appreciated or understood by a lot of the countries in the region which have no threats, at least immediately, upon them that they can discern,” he said.

“If we don’t keep people’s attitudes and eyes focused on the threat, they tend to drift away to other issues. And keeping people focused on this issue has been very tough.”

Singapore is a notable exception.

Mr Lawless said: “Singaporeans are hugely focused on the terrorism threat and devote a lot of time, attention and thought to it, and manage it very aggressively.”

Although Asia is not a terrorism battleground on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan, several countries in the region have been affected by domestic terrorism.

Singapore and Malaysia have outlawed Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a militant network that is seeking to establish a pan-Islamic state in the region, and nabbed several of its members.

The Philippines is fighting an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the southern part of the country.

And Indonesia is still trying to root out JI extremists who have carried a string of bombings in the country, the deadliest in October 2002 when 202 people were killed in an attack on nightclubs in Bali.

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