07 July 2009

Massive Ex Northstar VII on Sentosa's natural shore

An exercise involving 15 agencies and 2,000 people, Ex Northstar VII simulates the attacks on India's Mumbai city, with terrorists launching simultaneous assaults on key public areas. The plot for this year's exercise, to be held over several days, simulates a band of 15 terrorists who hijack a marine vessel. They split up into six "assault teams" and infiltrate Singapore's shores at different landing sites before launching concurrent large-scale attacks.

Phase 2, the finale - when crack military units will storm Rasa Sentosa Hotel to rescue hostages - will be witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other Cabinet ministers. This will be held next Wednesday (15 Jul) at the Rasa Sentosa Resort.

This explains the Port Marine Notice about a Police Coast Guard exercise on this stretch of natural shore on Sentosa.
Living seagrass meadows
This area has natural reefs where families enjoy the public shore walks conducted by the Naked Hermit Crabs. And lush seagrasses which are monitored by TeamSeagrass.

Ex Northstar tests agency response during simultaneous terror attacks
Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia 6 Jul 09;
SINGAPORE: Could Singapore cope if terrorists launched a series of coordinated assaults on the island?

That's the question posed in this year's Exercise Northstar, an annual event to test the emergency response capabilities of the different agencies.

This year's exercise, dubbed Northstar VII, simulated the attacks on India's Mumbai city last November, with terrorists launching simultaneous assaults on key public areas.

There are two phases in Exercise Northstar VII. Phase one started on Monday and will continue on Tuesday with scenarios involving public transport and shopping malls.

Phase 2, which takes place next week, will simulate a hostage situation at a hotel.

Fifteen public and private sector organisations are taking part in the exercise this year, including the Defence Ministry, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Maritime and Port Authority, and public transport providers.

On Monday, the simulated scenario started on Sentosa island, with police receiving reports of "gunfire" at a popular bar there. They arrived at the Cafe del Mar within minutes but by then it was a scene of ruins.

10 people were "dead" and 20 more "injured". It was later established that the "attackers" had come in by the sea on small boats, and they were not alone. Other "gunmen" had quickly made their way to hotels in the busy Orchard Road shopping belt, leaving behind a trail of carnage.

For the first time the media was involved as participants, to test how the police would manage and coordinate the dissemination of information in a crisis situation.

Singapore Police Force's assistant director of operations planning, Devrajan Bala, said: "Drawing lessons from Mumbai, we realised that information management is critical as it can compromise our operations if not managed well.

"We also want the media to understand our constraints as we run into an incident like this. We may not be able to give you updates in a very timely manner. Essentially, we're still running the operations so it's critical that you understand operations as they run on the ground."- CNA/ir
'Bloody' scene in Sentosa as anti-terror drill begins
Northstar exercise aimed at testing the readiness of front-line defenders
Carolyn Quek & Jermyn Chow, Straits Times 7 Jul 09;
POPULAR watering hole Cafe del Mar on Sentosa's Siloso Beach was a scene of death and destruction yesterday after three unidentified gunmen pelted party-goers with bullets.

Their violent act left 10 people dead and more than 20 others injured. The gunmen, who arrived by sea, were last seen taking off on bicycles towards the nearby Rasa Sentosa Resort.

This devastating scene set off a series of responses in the Republic's largest anti-terror drill.

The exercise, codenamed Northstar VII, involves more than 2,000 participants - including 350 roleplayers - from 15 agencies, including the Home Team and Singapore Armed Forces.

Enacted over three days, participants will practise evacuating victims, hunting for suspects and rescuing hostages following multiple coordinated attacks in areas such as Sentosa, Orchard Road and HarbourFront.

The exercise consists of 10 scenarios, from violent rampages at a train station, a shopping mall and a hotel, to thwarting threats from the sea.

The aim: To test the readiness of the officers who usually arrive first at the scene of such emergencies.

'We also want to assure the public that we are ready to deal with such situations should it happen,' said the police's assistant director of operations planning Devrajan Bala.

Police officers who arrived at the scene within 10 minutes of the attack at Siloso Beach yesterday immediately threw a security ring around the carnage.

Rescuers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces, meanwhile, carried or stretchered the casualties to safety.

Gun-toting officers from the police's Special Operations Command also combed Sentosa's shoreline to check for further threats.

Forensic officers from the Criminal Investigation Department followed soon after, gathering evidence to piece together the events that led to the unprovoked attack.

Part of the exercise also tested how the authorities handle the amount of information they think should be released, with terrorists on the run.

This meant limiting the flow of sensitive information, while ensuring that the public was kept updated, said Superintendent Devrajan.

In yesterday's exercise, those manning the cordons at Cafe del Mar barred reporters and photographers from getting near the grisly scene.

This was one of the lessons learnt from the terror attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai last November, when 10 extremists went on a 60-hour shooting spree.

The attacks killed some 170 people, including 28-year-old Singaporean lawyer Lo Hwei Yen who was in the city for a working trip.

More than 300 people were also injured.

Back then, the Indian government was criticised for not tightening media access to scenes of carnage and for releasing information that helped the terrorists to advance.

Supt Devrajan also elaborated on the similarities that Singapore shares with Mumbai.

For instance, both are coastal cities vulnerable to sea attacks.

He added that the authorities started planning for the current massive exercise last November, with numerous discussions among the different agencies.

This included informing Sentosa's 3,000 hotel patrons and residents about the exercise through e-mail, said the island's spokesman Suzanne Ho.

She added that the staff were manning the hotline calls from members of the public.

Other scenarios of the exercise will take place today, while next Wednesday's finale - when crack military units will storm Rasa Sentosa Hotel to rescue hostages - will be witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other Cabinet ministers.
15 agencies, 2,000 people involved
Straits Times 7 Jul 09;
EXERCISE Northstar is a national emergency exercise, now in its seventh year.

Led by the Singapore Police Force this year, it has been designed to test the country's response to a major coordinated terrorist assault similar to the one that took place in Mumbai last November.

Fifteen agencies and more than 2,000 people are involved in the exercise, which is being held in two phases over three days.

Phase 1 began yesterday at various locations in Singapore such as Sentosa and will continue today at places like VivoCity.

Phase 2, which will be witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will be held next Wednesday at the Rasa Sentosa Resort.

Exercise Northstar VII: Carnage at Sentosa
Teo Xuanwei, Today Online 7 Jul 09;
Three armed gunmen land on Sentosa under the cloak of darkness and go on a shooting rampage, killing 10 revellers at beachfront bar Cafe del Mar and wounding 20 - even as simultaneous attacks in several downtown spots are reported.

Droves of "injured" people, some carried out on stretchers by Singapore Civil Defence Force emergency crew, stream out of the incident site, just as reporters arrive on the scene.

This was the first test scenario played out yesterday in this year's Northstar VII exercise. Adding to the chaos was the media - role-playing for the first time how a terror attack would be covered by the press - which breached police cordon lines.

A "casualty" slumped on the bar's ground told Today that minutes earlier, three men who appeared out of nowhere suddenly started firing indiscriminately at patrons. A police officer hustled this reporter away before descriptions of the men could be determined.

Meanwhile, Criminal Investigation Department officers scoured the scene of the carnage for clues that might lead to the identity of the perpetrators. Later, a police spokesperson told the media their identities were still unclear, but an islandwide manhunt had been launched.

Sentosa Leisure Group's deputy director for communications Suzanne Ho told reporters the group was working closely with the police, and that efforts to alert hotel guests about the terrorist attack had begun.

The plot for this year's exercise, to be held over several days, simulates a band of 15 terrorists who hijack a marine vessel. They split up into six "assault teams" and infiltrate Singapore's shores at different landing sites before launching concurrent large-scale attacks.

Three other test scenarios - portraying hits at Raffles Place MRT station, shopping mall VivoCity, and Rasa Sentosa Resort Hotel - will be carried out today and on July 15.

Premised on the Mumbai attacks last November, where 10 gunmen entered the city on a rubber dinghy and went on a 60-hour rampage killing 166, Northstar VII aims to "stress-test" how our agencies would coordinate and respond. The exercise is led by the Singapore Police Force and involves 15 agencies. TEO XUANWEI

Look out for a report on the "incident" at Raffles Place MRT station in our afternoon edition.

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