Soldiers from Singapore and China moved silently towards a three-storey building where terrorists were hiding. Two teams mounted mobile ladders and climbed up to the second floor, where they began planting explosive charges on the doors.
Meanwhile, two other teams had climbed to the roof from the rear of the building, and prepared to rappel down. Others were in position on the ground floor, ready for the assault.
Their mission? To take down terrorists as part of an overseas peace support operation.
A deafening blast shattered the silence. That was the cue to start the raid.
The troops stormed all the rooms simultaneously. At the same time, a convoy of Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicles (PRVs) – mounted with remote control machine guns – moved in to secure the area.
The firefight was over in just a few minutes, and the civilians were escorted to safety.
This was the finale of Exercise Cooperation, a bilateral army exercise between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and People's Liberation Army (PLA).
The counter-terrorism drill was played out at the Murai Urban Training Facility on 5 Aug.
Started on 27 Jul, the 10-day exercise involved about 240 soldiers from the SAF's 3rd Singapore Division (3 Div) and 1st Commando Battalion, as well as the PLA's Southern Theatre Command Army's 74th Army Group.
During the course of the exercise, the SAF and PLA troops went through training together in rappelling, weapon handling, basic demolition and close quarter battle techniques.
Colonel (COL) Lek Seng Khoon, 44, the Exercise Director for the SAF, said the successful execution of the counter-terrorism drill was a testament of the mutual trust and strong level of cooperation between both forces.
"In this exercise, soldiers from both armies, had the opportunity to learn from each other, both professionally and culturally, strengthening the relationship between our armies."
COL Lek, who is Chief of Staff, 3rd Div, noted that since the first edition of the Exercise Cooperation in Guilin, China, 10 years ago, the exercise had grown in scope as well as complexity.
"This year's exercise edition is the largest one yet," he said.
"As part of the build-up training, we exchanged tactics, techniques and procedures…rappelling training, demolition training, first aid training…which culminated in a very complex raid."
He added: "We have also organised cultural exchange, which is important for soldiers from both sides to form their friendships."
Echoing the same sentiment was Exercise Director Senior COL Zhong Linjiang from the PLA.
"Soldiers from both armies have shown high levels of professionalism and combat capabilities. We hope to deepen our relationship in future training and interactions together," said Senior COL Zhong, Head of Section, Staff Officer Department, Southern Theatre Command Army, PLA.
On the counter-terrorism focus in this year's exercise, Senior COL Zhong said this was because terrorism is a common and pressing concern that all countries need to tackle.
"China and Singapore, being key countries in the region, have the common responsibility to maintain regional security. In the area of counter-terrorism, this is our first time (training together) and it’s a good start.
"Both sides have gained a lot from the mutual learning and exchanges," he added.
Corporal (CPL) Krishanraj S/O Elangovan, 20, commando trooper from the SAF, agreed.
"We went through many training (sessions) with the PLA troopers. We learnt many things…and we did many missions together as well," he said.
The 20-year-old added: "When they were ahead of us, or when we were ahead of them, we always waited for each other, so that we finished the training at the same point of time."
Although he did not speak Mandarin, that did not stop him from having an enriching exercise. He relied on fellow commandos who could speak Mandarin to be his interpreters.
Sergeant Tang Jia Le, from the PLA, was impressed with how the SAF soldiers carried out their training procedures and equipment checks professionally and meticulously.
The 26-year-old, a Company Sergeant Major, added: "We had trained in small, mixed groups as well as one-to-one…to enable easier interactions. This has helped both forces to improve their combat capabilities, as well as tactics."