SINGAPORE: Mass shooting of civilians, hostage-taking in a cinema, and a suicide bomber threatening to blow himself - these were some scenarios that played out over Monday night and Tuesday morning (Oct 17 to 18) as part of Singapore’s largest anti-terror exercise.
The multi-agency exercise, which simulated a situation in which simultaneous terror attacks take place across multiple locations islandwide, is meant to test Singapore’s readiness to deal with a major terrorist incident.
One of the locations was Nee Soon Camp, where the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) Army Deployment Force (ADF) was activated at 9.30pm on Monday to respond to a simulated mass shooting by terrorists in Bishan.
The battalion-sized ADF was established in the middle of this year in response to the growing threat of global terrorism.
Comprising highly-trained soldiers - mostly regulars - with niche capabilities, the high-readiness unit works to reinforce the likes of SAF's Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) and Home Team agencies over different operations in times of emergencies.
An ADF trooper stands outside his PRV (Protected Response Vehicle). (Photo: Justin Ong)
After gearing up for their first such deployment exercise, ADF personnel rolled out in Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicles (PRV) - troop carriers able to withstand small-arms fire and fragmentation.
The ADF then reported to Bishan Stadium at about 1.30am on Tuesday, where they were briefed by the Singapore Police Force's (SPF) initial wave of officers on the situation in nearby Junction 8 mall, where gunmen were firing indiscriminately at civilians.
The ADF PRVs head over to Junction 8 mall after troops were briefed at Bishan Stadium. (Photo: Justin Ong)
This was also as far as ADF personnel were made aware of the exercise's details in advance, said SAF, with events of the rest of the night unscripted and dependent on the ADF's "live" response to ongoing scenarios.
Equipped with shields and assault weapons like the SAR 21, the ADF then used their PRVs to set up a security perimeter around the mall, containing the armed attackers inside while SOTF moved in to eliminate the threat and resolve a hostage situation.
After the terrorist gunmen were neutralised, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedics attended to the injured, while Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers collected forensic evidence and documented the scene.
ADF soldiers take cover outside Junction 8 mall. (Photo: Justin Ong)
Meanwhile, at 12.30am on Tuesday at Century Square and Tampines Mall, the initial wave from the Police Ground Response Force and the SPF’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) were deployed to deal with gun and bomb attacks.
First responders from the police move in on armed attackers at the counter-terrorism exercise. (Photo: Linette Lim)
When the situation developed to include hostage-taking, there was a change in tactical command, with the Anti-Swarming Teams (AST) from the SPF’s Special Operations Command taking over to negotiate with the gunmen. The AST stormed the scene to neutralise the gunmen when they displayed signs that they were about to kill the hostages.
Other SAF units also provided support: The Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives Defence Group was activated to neutralise the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), while the SOTF was deployed to take down armed hostage-takers and rescue hostages.
SOTF officers securing hostages at Tampines Mall. (Photo: Loke Kok Fai)
After the armed attackers were neutralised, emergency responders from the SCDF carried out rescue operations for the injured. Meanwhile, ICA conducted enhanced checks at the land checkpoints.
SCDF personnel attending to the wounded at the islandwide counter-terrorism exercise. (Photo: Linette Lim)
Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, who was present to observe the part of the exercise conducted at Century Square and Tampines Mall, said that the multi-agency effort was important in bringing the security forces together to “develop new SOPs (standard operating procedures), joint procedures”.
Mr Teo was accompanied by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, and Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.
The exercise was Singapore's largest anti-terror exercise to date. (Photo: Linette Lim)
Led by the SPF, the two-day exercise is also meant to showcase the importance of community involvement in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
Apart from the 3,200 personnel from the SAF and Home Team which took part, about 50 volunteers from the People’s Association participated, practising SGSecure skills, including the ‘Run, Hide and Tell’ advisory and improvised first aid skills using the ‘Press, Tie and Tell’ method.