Should people be trained to fight back during a terror attack?, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Should people be trained to fight back during a terror attack?

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In the event of a terror attack, Singapore advises civilians on the ground to "Run, Hide, Tell".

But during the Christchurch mass shootings last Friday, a worshipper chose to fight the attacker, instead of running or hiding.

His heroic act reportedly helped prevent more casualties.

Citing the incident as an example, security experts said it highlights the scope for Singapore's SGSecure national anti-terrorism movement to be expanded to equip civilians with skills like unarmed combat to fight back, when necessary.

Currently, Singapore's SGSecure message does not include the element of confrontation. Instead, people are advised to move away from the danger, stay out of sight and alert the authorities.

While these elements are crucial to help people respond appropriately during an attack, the "fight" element can be incorporated into the SGSecure message, said Dr Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

While the first option should be to escape, it would be good for citizens to be trained to confront the terrorist if there is no option to run, he added.

During the attacks in New Zealand that killed 50, the attacker was reportedly storming towards the Linwood mosque armed with guns, but his attempts to inflict more damage were partly thwarted by Mr Abdul Aziz, 48, who charged towards him with a credit card machine, forcing him to flee the scene.

Singapore's advisory is similar to that in the United Kingdom and differs from that in the US which advises people to "Run, Hide, Fight", where fighting is advocated as a last resort in an active shooter incident.

Singapore-based counter-terrorism expert Yaniv Peretz said while the combat element is useful, it is a small part of the "tool box" to prepare citizens for an attack. Fitness level, knowledge of first aid and the orientation of buildings around the vicinity are also crucial.

Associate Professor Andrew Tan from Macquarie University's Department of Security Studies and Criminology said there might not be the need to include combat skills under the SGSecure framework, as there are trained NSmen in the civilian population.

While most security experts supported the idea of incorporating self-defence or combat skills under SGSecure, they also acknowledged that fighting back could be fatal.

Taking on attackers could result in death, or complicate matters if they are taken hostage, said Mr Remy Mahzam of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told reporters on Tuesday that the SGSecure message has to be "very careful" in advising people to fight against an attacker, especially one who is armed.

"In terms of fighting back, they will have to use their own common sense as well. If we make it a general message that you should fight back, I think we are telling people to go and get killed. It is dangerous."