Epicenter of future caliphate: Singapore says Isis terror threat at highest level

'It is no longer a question of whether an attack will take place, but really, when is an attack going to take place'

Singapore's home minister has said the threat of a terror attack in the city state has reached the highest level in decades, making the country a "prime target for all."

"The threat of a terror attack here is at its highest level in recent times, much more so than after 9/11, and the arrest of Jemaah Islamiah members. It is no longer a question of whether an attack will take place, but really, when is an attack going to take place. And we have to be prepared for that," Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

He added on Friday the country is ramping up counter-terrorism security measures, including the extension of the use of police CCTV cameras across the city.

The minister said a new national programme, SG Secure, will be initiated for ensuring the maintenance of racial and religious harmony and to train people on how to protect soft targets.

Emergency response teams armed with sophisticated weapons will also be created and building owners and shop keepers will have to impose stricter security measures in their premises.

Earlier this week Singapore arrested four citizens who travelled overseas to take part in armed sectarian conflicts in the Middle East.

The arrested men include three radicalised Muslim youth who fought in Yemen and a man of Chinese descent who travelled overseas to fight the Islamic state on the side of Kurdish militia groups.

The minister said the threat from Isis-affiliated militants and jihadi groups in the region has soared significantly in recent times.

"ISIS wants to establish a caliphate in this region, encompassing Singapore ... We are in the epicenter of the caliphate that ISIS wants to establish," the minister said.

Shanmugam drew attention to the ongoing counter terror actions in neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. He said there were more than 70 terror-related arrests in Indonesia last year, while Malaysia foiled seven terrorist plots.

"As can be seen, we do not have a pretty picture. There are multiple layers of threats in this region: complex, interwoven, fusing religion with domestic political grievances," Shanmugam said.

"And we are in the middle - an oasis of calm, and a prime target for all."