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Saturday May 9, 2009

Mas Selamat JI leader nabbed in Skudai

KUALA LUMPUR: Fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari, one of the region’s most wanted terrorists, was nabbed while he was sound asleep in a secluded kampung house in Skudai, Johor.

The Singaporean terrorist who captured world attention when he escaped from the republic’s maximum security Whitley Detention Centre in February last year, could barely put up a fight in his shorts and T-shirt when caught during a dawn raid in April.

Described as highly dangerous, the 48-year-old Mas Selamat who was trained in firearms and explosives, was said to be masterminding “unrest” in several countries in the region.

Guarded: A Feb 4, 2003 file pic showing Mas Selamat being guarded by Indonesian police in Tanjung Pinang on Bintang island, Riau. — AFP

The Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader of the Singapore chapter, who had a S$1mil (RM2.4mil) bounty on his head, had been living the life of a simple villager without arousing the suspicions of villagers there.

(The radical JI movement with key figures such as religious scholar Abu Bakar Basyir and Hambali was linked to Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden. While Abu Bakar, who was jailed and then freed had denied any involvement in terrorist activities, Hambali is still being detained at the infamous Guatanamo Bay. The movement, which aimed to set up a Pan Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, was said to have carried out several bombings in Jakarta, Bali and Manila).

Regional intelligence sources said Mas Selamat, who escaped the maximum security detention centre by climbing out through the toilet window, fled to the northern part of Singapore before swimming across to Johor.

Mas Selamat managed the feat despite having leg injuries.

His escape greatly embarrassed the Singa­pore Government which then launched a massive manhunt, described as the largest ever in the republic, for him.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan confirmed Mas Selamat’s arrest and detention under the ISA.

“He was planning something and that led to our arresting him,’’ Hishammuddin told a press conference.

He said Malaysian police were working with Singaporean and Indonesian authorities on the investigations, and declined to say when exactly the fugitive was nabbed.

“There are certain things of national interest that do not just involve Malaysian intelligence but can affect our work with the other two countries like in this case and with Germany, the United States and Britain in the case of Al-Qaeda,’’ Hishammuddin said.

Musa said the arrest was made possible as police in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia had been sharing intelligence reports over the past year.

“We have been in contact with our international counterparts who were informed about the arrest as well as what we have gathered from Mas Selamat since his arrest last month.

“Our officers are still investigating his activities and networking,” he added.

It is learnt that Special Branch officers had been working on various leads since March and upon confirming his whereabouts planned the dawn raid that resulted in his arrest.

Mas Selamat who was arrested in 2006 in Bintan, Indonesia, was accused of wanting to crash a plane into Changi International Airport’s control tower using either an American, British or Singapore Airlines aeroplane.

He was deported to Singapore where he managed to escape.

The Fugitive

Mas Selamat Kastari, 48.

> Head of the militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI)’s branch in Singapore.

> Married with four children.

> Former mechanic.

> Was suspected to have planned various terror plots, including crashing a plane into the Changi airport as well as attacking different targets, such as the American Embassy and the Singapore American School.

> Was previously jailed in Bintan for using a fake identity card.

> Handed over to Singapore in 2006 and detained under the Internal Security Act without trial.

The Escape

> Dubbed the “toilet break” by some internet commentators in Singapore.

> Mat Selamat had asked to go to the toilet when family visited him at the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27, 2008.

> Escaped via an unsecured window in the toilet.

> Swam more than 1km to Stulang, Johor

The Hunt

> Singapore launched its largest-ever land hunt.

> Sought Interpol’s help and an urgent worldwide security alert activated.

> Three telecommunications companies in Singapore sent out MMS to its 5.5mil subscribers with Mas Selamat’s photo and describing him as short at 1.58m and limped on his left leg.

The Capture

> The latest photograph of Mas Selamat hours after his arrest in Skudai, Johor, in April together with two others by Special Branch officers following intelligence sharing with the police forces of Indonesia and Singapore.

Related Stories:
Singapore PM grateful for capture of terrorist
Honestly, Pahang police chief is one proud boss
Johor police chief tightlipped on fugitive’s arrest

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