Counter-terrorism exercise at Changi Airport a 'realistic scenario': PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong looking on during the counter terrorism exercise Northstar at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on 17 October, 2017. Photo: Stefanus Ian

A large-scale counter-terrorism drill was staged at Changi Airport in the wee hours of Tuesday (17 October) in what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said was a “very realistic scenario” for the exercise.

This is the first time the exercise has been conducted at Changi Airport. During the drill, simulations included a shooting rampage by gunmen and a suicide bombing.

Known as Exercise Northstar, the multi-agency counter-terrorism exercise involved more than 650 personnel from the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Changi Airport Group and Ministry of Health.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen, and Minister for Education (Schools) and Second Minister for Transport, Ng Chee Meng, also observed the exercise.

Speaking to the media afterwards, the prime minister said it was “completely plausible” that Changi Airport could be targeted by terrorists.

“If you look around the world, more than one airport has had a terrorist attack. Changi Airport is a high profile target. It’s completely plausible that something like this would happen in Singapore,” said Lee.

Last year, two suicide bombers detonated bombs at the Brussels Airport in March, killing at least 10 people. In June, a bomb attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport left 41 people dead and more than 230 injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Previous editions of Exercise Northstar simulated bomb attacks at MRT stations, explosions at the Sports Hub and terrorist attacks on Sentosa.

“An exercise like this enables them to come together, practise what we need to do and also give us a good sense of where weaknesses in our preparations may be, and what we have to beef up,” said Lee.