Reports: Top Islamic terror suspect held

May 7, 2009 6:58:35 PM PDT
A top Islamic terror suspect accused in a plot to crash a hijacked plane into Singapore has been arrested in neighboring Malaysia after escaping a high-security Singaporean jail last year, news reports said Friday. Mas Selamat Kastari, suspected commander of the Singapore arm of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, escaped from the jail on Feb. 27, 2008, by wriggling out a toilet window in a surprising security breach that sparked a massive manhunt.

The search had largely focused on Singapore and neighboring Indonesia, where the Indonesian branch of Jemaah Islamiyah was thought likely to find him shelter. The group is accused of carrying out the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia.

However, he was arrested in Malaysia more than a month ago in a joint operation involving security agencies of the two countries, Channel News Asia television said on its Web site. The report was not attributed to any source.

Malaysia's The Star newspaper also reported the arrest on its Web site, quoting Malaysian Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan.

Musa and other officials were not immediately available for comment.

Channel News Asia said Mas Selamat, a Singaporean, is being interrogated in Malaysia and would soon be brought to Singapore. "We are in touch with our international counterparts who were informed about the arrest as well as about what we learnt," Musa was quoted as saying by The Star. "Our officers are still investigating their activities and networking," he added.

Mas Selamat, who is known to walk with a limp, is accused of plotting to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore's international airport. He was being held under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Security breaches are virtually unheard of in tightly policed Singapore, an island nation of 4 million people that is a 45-minute boat ride from Indonesia where Mas Selamat is alleged to have links with militant groups.

The Singapore government said Mas Selamat escaped from the high-security Whitley Road Detention Centre because of a "security lapse." He had been taken from his cell to a room where he was waiting for his family to make a scheduled visit. He escaped after being granted permission to visit the washroom, authorities said.

Following his escape, the detention center's superintendent was dismissed and the superintendent's deputy was demoted.

Mas Selamat first came to prominence in December 2001 when he fled Singapore following an Internal Security Department operation against Jemaah Islamiyah.

He was arrested by the Indonesian police on Bintan island in January 2006 and handed over to Singapore authorities.

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