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Bottle of shampoo? Check again, ‘it could be a bomb’

Anti-terrorism expert Yaniv Peretz showing an image of the hotel room in Las Vegas from which lone gunman Stephen Paddock fired on concertgoers about 400m away on Sunday. Speaking at the Security Industry Conference 2017 yesterday, he said the gunman was well prepared and had a concealed camera in the hallway to alert him if the authorities were near.
Anti-terrorism expert Yaniv Peretz showing an image of the hotel room in Las Vegas from which lone gunman Stephen Paddock fired on concertgoers about 400m away on Sunday. Speaking at the Security Industry Conference 2017 yesterday, he said the gunman was well prepared and had a concealed camera in the hallway to alert him if the authorities were near. Zaihan Mohamed Yusof/Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Bottle of shampoo? Check again, ‘it could be a bomb’

Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - Even inconspicuous household items can be used to hide explosives, say counter-terrorism experts.

The big bottle of “shampoo” seemed out of place at the front of the stage. Yet, for more than 40 minutes, no one in the audience paid any attention to it.

Not until counter-terrorism expert Yaniv Peretz, a guest speaker at the Security Industry Conference 2017, held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, shared with the audience that the seemingly innocuous bottle was actually a replica of a bomb used by terrorists.

The audience fell silent when he said “there is about 500g of explosives inside, which is able to take out all (those sitting in) the first row”. A close-up of the “bomb” showed a wire attached to a switch.

“This is what we're showing people in our courses,” Mr Peretz, programme director of Certified Counter Terrorism Practitioner, a scheme which provides demonstrable proof of knowledge and expertise in terrorism prevention, detection and deterrence, told The Straits Times. “This is why we call it an art to pay attention to small things.”

Mr Peretz, an Israeli security professional based here and who has more than 19 years of experience, has designed training programmes as well as served as adviser to critical infrastructures in the United States, South-east Asia and Europe.

Other experts in the security industry also shared their experiences and insights at yesterday's conference, themed “Global Terrorism: Impact on Singapore” and organised by Temasek Polytechnic's Security Industry Institute.

They highlighted the need for security officers and stakeholders to share, prepare and react to heightened threat levels around the world.

A case in point was the shooting spree in Las Vegas, Nevada, in which close to 60 people were killed on October 1st this year. Mr Peretz described it as “well planned”.

From the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, lone gunman Stephen Paddock fired for nine minutes, targeting outdoor concertgoers about 400m away. Playing a video clip at the conference, Mr Peretz dissected what had gone wrong in terms of security.

“There was no evacuation plan in place. People didn't know what to do. Why? Because nobody led them to safety. Security officers were all around looking at one another.”

Another speaker, Mr Raj Joshua Thomas, president of the Security Association of Singapore, told ST that security officers can be “force multipliers" by being the feet, eyes and ears for law enforcement if a terror attack happens. He said they should help people reach safety in the event of an attack.

Mr Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said in his opening address that Singapore's “global connectivity” means terrorism is no longer contained to certain countries.

He said the Government has taken active steps to make the country safer, such as by having more surveillance cameras in public places.

Mr Tay, who is an MP of West Coast GRC, added: “But even with such technology in place, our best defence against any attack is our people - the community's vigilance and role is extremely critical. At all levels, we must stay resilient and not be complacent.”

Both Mr Peretz and Mr Thomas said terror groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are looking to radicalise people into carrying out lone-wolf attacks.

What is worrying is their use of manuals designed to look like fancy and stylish magazines, but which contain instructions on how to carry out mass killings.

Mr Peretz told ST: “They (terrorists) learn from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, sharing information in the 'beautiful' magazine. But why do we (security industry practitioners) limit ourselves? We can also learn from one another on how to fight them.”

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