Top Islamic terror suspect who fled Singapore nabbed in Malaysia

Arrest ends massive hunt for man accused of plotting to crash a hijacked plane into Singapore's international airport.

Kastari poster 248.98 (photo credit: AP)
Kastari poster 248.98
(photo credit: AP)
A top Islamic terror suspect who escaped from a high-security jail in Singapore last year has been arrested in Malaysia, an official said Friday, ending a massive manhunt for the man accused of plotting to crash a hijacked plane into Singapore. 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's southern Johor state bordering Singapore and is being interrogated by authorities there, said Walter Chia, a spokesman for the Singapore's embassy in Kuala Lumpur. "The arrest was made possible with the cooperation of the two countries," Chia told The Associated Press. Mas Selamat was captured April 1 in a joint operation involving the security agencies of both countries, Singapore's Straits Times newspaper said on its Web site, quoting unidentified regional intelligence officials. Malaysia's home minister was expected to hold a news conference Friday to reveal details. 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.