The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan could lead to increased terrorism in South East Asia, Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Friday, warning that the war-ravaged country might become a safe haven for radical training of potential terrorists from the region, including from the city-state, and access to weapons.
The minister said that this fear is because Afghanistan had, under the previous Taliban regime, provided a safe haven for potential terrorists from South East Asia, including from Singapore.
"If you ask what would-be terrorists need or what helps would-be terrorists go out and do bad things: A safe haven, a place where they can train, a place where their minds can be hardened and radicalised even more," the Channel News Asia quoted the Indian-origin minister as saying.
"And previously, what happened with ISIS and Al-Qaeda was that there were such safe havens. Afghanistan provided a safe haven for training persons from South East Asia, including from Singapore; and it provided a safe haven for training, access to weapons, people become hardened because there's training on fighting, and that makes it very dangerous," the minister said.
"Will that happen again? A lot of people fear that. I fear that that might happen again. So yes, I think the prospect of increased terrorism in the region, I think many security agencies and serious people are concerned about it," Shanmugam said.
On the security situation in Singapore, Shanmugam said, "in day-to-day terms, I would not say that the events in Afghanistan have led to an immediate increase in the security threat - but this is a strategic issue; it's a mid-term to a longer-term issue and we'll need to be prepared for that.
"But meanwhile, the Internal Security Department surveys the landscape, what's happening elsewhere, both in the region and further afield, including Afghanistan. And of course we map that against what we need to do in Singapore, and that's an ongoing thing."
Shanmugam recounted how the Internal Security Act (ISA) was invoked "within a few days" after the deadly attacks on September 11, 2001 in the US when authorities arrested 36 Singaporeans who were part of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network.
ISA is a tough Singapore law allowing detention of people posing threat such as indulging in terror acts.
"Some of them were working with Al-Qaeda elements to bomb foreign embassies in Singapore, they were also doing casing on other targets, including transport nodes and houses of some people," the Channel report said, quoting Shanmugam.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August, ousting the previous elected leadership which was backed by the West. The interim Cabinet consists of high-profile members of the insurgent group.
At least 14 members of the Taliban's interim government are on the UN Security Council's terrorism blacklist, including acting Prime Minister Mullah Hasan and his both deputies. Specially designated global terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, who carries a reward of USD 10 million US bounty on his head, is the acting interior minister.
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