Singapore – Their basic infrastructure is still intact. They can still find havens for their boot camps. And their key leaders are still at large. These are among the reasons why terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiah remain a highly-dangerous threat despite a global crackdown against them since Sept 11, 2001, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Lee, speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on June 3, said that while Southeast Asian governments have succeeded in disrupting the JI’s operational capacity, the basic infrastructure supporting their terrorist activities remains intact. For example, madrasahs, where a new generation of terrorist fighters are talent-spotted, indoctrinated and groomed, continue to operate. And separatist Muslim groups in the region still host training facilities.
He said the JI, blamed for a spate of bombings across Southeast Asia, is "morphing into a loose web" of groups. "While the JI may be weakened, it remains highly dangerous."
Mr Lee added that the JI is able to reinvigorate itself because its top leaders remain at large. Two of the group’s alleged top leaders – Malaysian bomb expert Azahari Husin and his accomplice, Noordin Mohamed Top - remain at large. The duo have been blamed for several bomb attacks in Indonesia.
"It is also tapping into like-minded groups in Indonesia to provide manpower and support for its terrorist activities," Mr Lee said.
In his speech, the Singapore Prime Minister also urged the United States to make more use of its “soft power” to win over international opinion and build trust, especially in the Muslim world.
He said one reason why moderate Muslims are reluctant to condemn and disown the extremists is "the wide gap that separates the US from the Muslim world".
"The US needs to make more use of its soft power to win over international opinion, correct misperceptions, and build trust and credibility, especially in the Muslim world. In the long run, this is vital if the US is to prevail over terrorism, and to maintain its position of global leadership."
*US can use 'soft power' to win trust (The Straits Times, June 4)
* Singapore PM says terrorists are studying maritime targets (The Philippine Star, June 5)