Mas Selamat Kastari, the leader of the Singapore terrorist network – Jemaah Islamiyah, has escaped from the detention center where he was placed. This happened at 4:05pm on Wednesday, 27th February 2008. A massive manhunt is currently in progress to track him down. While he is not known to be armed, he may still be a danger to the public as he was the mastermind linked to a plot to crash a hijacked plane into Changi Airport.

This incident also sparks off questions on the security of the detention center and how this breach had happened. Judging from the report, he is likely to be within the Bukit Timah area in the afternoon, although he most probably can be anywhere by now. This is the second major security breach within the last 1 year, where the previous incident involved an NSF, Dave Teo, who got out of his camp with an armed rifle.

THE leader of the Singapore terrorist Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, Mas Selamat Kastari, escaped from the Whitley Road detention centre at about 4.05 pm on Wednesday, said the Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement.

A massive manhunt involving the police, Gurkhas and Special Operations Command forces, is underway to track down the escaped detainee, who walks with a limp.

‘He is not known to be armed. Extensive police resources have been deployed to track him down,’ said the ministry statement.

The forces have fanned out to areas in Beauty World in Upper Bukit Timah, Goldhill Avenue near Barker Road, and the men are knocking on homes asking residents if they have seen the escapee.

Undercover police officers are also questioning staff of petrol stations, convenience stores and checking their CCTV footage in case the terrorist leader had entered their premises earlier.

At Malcolm Park, near the Singapore Chinese Girls School, scores of forces have formed a formidable blockade around the park.

The public is asked to contact the police at 999 if they know of his whereabouts.

Background
Mas Selamat, 45, and four other members of the terrorist organisation which has regional links and ties to Al-Qaeda, were served detention orders under the Internal Security Act between March and May 2006.

Tagged as Singapore’s most wanted militant and linked to a sensational plot to crash a hijacked plane into Changi Airport, the JI leader of the Singapore network, was arrested on the riau island of Bintan while on the run after fleeing the Republic in December 2001.

He was eventually deported to Singapore in February 2006 after serving time in two Indonesian jails for immigration offences.

Mas Selamat, a father of four, was involved in JI’s plans to mount attacks against foreign and local establishments here, which included the US Embassy and American Club, the Defence Ministry headquarters at Bukit Gombak and the Education Ministry building at North Buona Vista Drive.

His role included directing Singapore JI members to undertake reconnaissance of these establishments and handing over reconnaissance material to JI operational leaders based in Malaysia.

After he fled Singapore, he continued to target the country – specifically plotting to hijack an aircraft to crash into Changi Airport.

The Government said that when his initial attempt was thwarted, he continued to believe in the feasibility of the plan and intended to pursue it in the future when the opportunity presented itself.

When he was finally captured in Malang, some 40 km south of Pasuruan on Jan 20 2006, after about five months on the run, Mas Selamat was found to be carrying false identification – an offence similar to previous charges that arose from his first arrest in February 2003.

That earlier arrest ended his 14-month run from the law, which began when he fled Singapore in December 2001 after the Republic’s crackdown on terrorists had netted about a dozen of his JI comrades.

What he did, or whom he met, during his five-month freedom is still a mystery.

His involvement in JI began in 1990.

According to a 2003 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on the JI, he joined Darul Islam (DI), a movement considered to be the parent of JI, that year.

Founded in 1948, DI fought for an Islamic state in Indonesia in the 1950s and spawned several key JI leaders, including its founders, the late Abdullah Sungkar and jailed militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

Mas Selamat joined DI after he heard Indonesian cleric Abu Jibril preach in Johor.

Abu Jibril, who was detained in Malaysia in 2001 for militant work, had also apparently held religious talks in Singapore at the homes of JI members. He was deported to Indonesia in 2004, and now heads the Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia, an outfit founded by Abu Bakar.

By 1992, Mas Selamat had joined the religious council of the Singapore JI cell. In 1993, he went a step further, undergoing military training in Afghanistan.

At that time, the Afghan training was supervised by another Indonesian cleric, Zulkarnaen – said to be a member of JI’s central command as well as the leader of its military wing. Zulkarnaen is still at large.

In 1998, JI paid for Mas Selamat and another Singaporean, Jaafar Mistooki, to visit Afghanistan again for a month to look at the Taleban system of government.

Jaafar, who has been detained since December 2001, was one of several JI detainees in Singapore and Malaysia who testified against Abu Bakar during the cleric’s 2003 trial in Indonesia.

By 1999, Mas Selamat had been chosen by alleged JI operations chief Hambali to take over as Singapore JI leader from Ibrahim Maidin – the Singapore cell founder who has been detained since December 2001.

ICG’s report said he met Hambali, who has been in US custody since 2003, at around the same time in Bangkok to discuss a plane hijack, and was in the Thai capital and Pattaya to select personnel.

In 2002, Singapore’s then-premier Goh Chok Tong said that Mas Selamat had planned to crash a hijacked plane into Changi Airport to avenge the arrests of JI members.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th February 2008



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