Islamic State poses a sustained threat to Singapore and Southeast Asia, while a number of war zones globally are serving as incubators for terrorism in the region

Despite the absence of a spectacular attack by Islamic State (IS) in Southeast Asia in 2017, the jihadist movement and their affiliates pose a sustained threat in the region, according to AON’s new risk report.

IS has provided a unifying framework for groups in the region, binding them together into a more coherent and capable force. ”Singapore is seen as a prised target and IS has directed several propaganda pieces specifically aimed at the city-state in 2017.

”The country risk level for Singapore remains “low” a year after it was raised from “negligible”, and a terrorism peril is still in place–particularly from attacks mounted by lone actors using improvised weapons. Although Risk Advisory has not recorded any terrorist attacks in Singapore over the past 12 months, this peril and risk scoring reflect the arrests of purported extremists and disruption of plots in the country in recent years,” according to the report.

The Singapore Government takes the threat from terrorism seriously with the recent passing of the amendments to the Public Order Bill and the new Infrastructure Protection Act aimed to reduce the effectiveness of any potential terrorist atrocity. In the last 18 months, they have continued to prepare its population with the SG Secure app and security agencies through regular inter-agency exercises framed around a terror attack and its aftermath. 

The threat is more severe in the Philippines where overall country score remains “high” in 2018, a year after it was raised from “medium”. This comes after Islamist extremists seized control of the southern city of Marawi for five months in 2017, with the government introducing martial law. It also reflects signs of IS-linked factions regrouping in southern Philippines and jihadist capability to mount attacks from there across Southeast Asia. 

Daniel Bould, Regional Director, Asia of Crisis Management at Aon said: “In 2018 we expect a continued increase in terrorist activity within Asia. While the global reach of IS appears to have peaked, they will continue to agitate for attacks in areas where they have traction, notably in the Philippines and to a lesser degree in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

“Recently we have seen IS producing more directed and relevant propaganda content aimed at Asia based militants and affiliates. Their messages aim to inspire and motivate individuals to mount attacks using crude and improvised weapons. The shift in modus operandi towards lone wolf attacks utilising everyday objects highlights an evolving peril that organisations must address. The property damage sustained in such an attack is historically minor while the effect on operations and business interruption may well be substantial.”

Globally, IS mounted terrorist attacks in 29 countries on five continents in 2017, the same number of countries as in 2016 and up from 19 countries in 2015. The number of terrorist attacks in Western countries in 2017 (204) was roughly double that of 2016 (96).

In particular, the tourism sector has to manage the risks posed by increased terrorism, with the sector a highly attractive target for some terrorist organisations. In 2017, there were at least 35 attacks worldwide that directly targeted critical commercial components of the tourism industry, such as hotels and resorts, nightclubs, civil aviation and visitor attractions. 

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