- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

SINGAPORE Preparing for the worst, Singapore is building underground shelters against military and terrorist attacks and conducting a high-profile campaign to raise security awareness.
Thousands of Singaporeans and foreigners working in the city-state thronged four emergency shelters opened to the public over the weekend as part of the drive to instill vigilance and steel the nation for attacks.
"The purpose of doing all these is to send a very strong deterrent message to the al Qaeda terror network that even if it tries [an attack], it might not succeed," said Andrew Tan, a security analyst at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS).
"And even if it succeeds, Singapore will be able to minimize the number of casualties and thereby its impact. Hopefully, when you publicize the message of preparedness, it could serve as a deterrent in the first place," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Tony Tan urged Singaporeans to be prepared for terrorist attacks as he began a five-week series of road shows on the theme "Total Defense."
"The threat is pervasive and it will be long-drawn," he said. "All of us must have the resolve, resilience and commitment the psychological strength to face the current challenges and prevail."
The public shelters include subway stations that can be sealed quickly and converted into self-contained communities in case of war or a terrorist attack using bombs or chemical or biological weapons.
Of the 16 stations in a newly built line of Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit, 13 can be transformed into war shelters in addition to the 500 already in existence, including nine of the older train stations.
Each of the 13 new stations has incorporated a decontamination chamber equipped with showers and air blowers to clean people contaminated during a chemical attack.
Since 1982, Singapore has built shelters that can house 945,000 people nearly a quarter of the 4 million population. Among these are 135,000 shelters for families in government-built apartments, private condominiums and houses.
"I'm impressed. Now I feel safer and I hope others will feel safer too," said Bala Muniapan, 40, a worker from India who toured an underground shelter in Chinatown with his young son.
Uniformed police officers offered guided tours of the train station, which can house 9,400 people. Makeshift toilets were installed on the granite platforms and visitors were shown "tunnel blast doors" used to seal the area from poisonous gases.
The decontamination chamber is guarded by huge steel doors about 10 inches thick.
Analysts say that while the threat of an invasion is remote, the affluent island republic remains a prime target for groups allied with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda because of its staunch support for the United States.
The discovery of a cell of the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah in Singapore and their plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy and other missions alarmed the city-state, long a haven of security in politically troubled Southeast Asia.
Mr. Tan of IDSS said the security measures are part of a long-term homeland security doctrine updated after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
"The fact that the Singapore government sees the security measures as being necessary indicates the very strong concern that Singapore remains to be a prime al Qaeda target on account of its close relations with the U.S.," Mr. Tan said.
Despite the arrests of 31 men linked to the foiled bomb plots in Singapore, "it is feared that terrorists will continue to plan terrorist attacks on the U.S. and U.S.-allied targets in the region," the analyst said.
"For that reason, the Singapore government remains extremely concerned. It has therefore taken quite rigorous measures the most rigorous in the region in dealing with the terror threat," he said.
A civil-defense emergency handbook containing instructions on what to do in case of terrorist threats or attacks will be delivered to 1 million households.
"I urge all Singaporeans to read it carefully. It may save your life one day," said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

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