'We will ensure Mas Selamat does not escape'
Sat, May 09, 2009
The New Straits Times
>PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA: Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday confirmed that alleged militant, Mas Selamat Kastari, who escaped detention in Singapore last year, is being held under the Internal Security Act.

He, however, refused to disclose where or when Mas Selamat was arrested, saying only that he was under the custody of Malaysian authorities.

"Yes, I can confirm he is in our custody and being investigated. He was planning something, which allowed us to arrest him," Hishammuddin said.

Asked whether Mas Selamat was planning to create unrest here, he replied:

"I can't go into details. It is too sensitive as it involves three parties and intelligence agencies from Indonesia, Singapore as well as Malaysia. This is something that I cannot say because it involves other people as well."

Will Mas Selamat be handed over to the Singapore authorities?

"We will talk to the Singapore as well as the Indonesian authorities.

"Our ties with Indonesia are very strong and without Indonesia's cooperation, I do not think we were able to make the arrest after his escape from Singapore."

Hishammuddin said the authorities would ensure Mas Selamat did not escape.

"We will become an expert in that. The Singapore experience will help us to make sure he does not escape a second time."

A foreign news report stated that he was nabbed on the outskirts of Johor Baru about six weeks ago.

Mas Selamat, who was born in Indonesia but migrated to Singapore in his youth, is married and has five children -- four boys and a girl.

Recruited into the religious council of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah cell in 1992, he later became the head of the Singapore chapter of the regional terror group, and first emerged on the radar of regional intelligence agencies in early 2002.

That was after he threatened to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport in retaliation against the arrests of dozens of suspected JI operatives in Singapore and Malaysia several months earlier. The threat was never carried out.

Intelligence provided by Singapore led to Mas Selamat's first arrest by the Indonesian authorities on Bintan island in February, 2003. He was jailed 18 months for immigration offences.

A botched escape attempt during his imprisonment left him with a broken left leg and a permanent limp.

He was not handed over to Singapore after he served his prison term and went missing for about five months.

Again, with the help of intelligence from Singapore, he was captured a second time by the Indonesian authorities in early 2006 for using a fake identity card. This time, Indonesia granted Singapore's request to extradite him.

He was handed over in February 2006 and detained under the ISA.

It is learned that cooperation by Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian intelligence authorities led to the capture of Mas Selamat

Their information led Malaysian authorities to the 48-year-old's hideout in Skudai, Johor.

But authorities did not sweep in immediately and had kept an eye on him as well as on his followers before arresting him on April 1 this year.

Several people who had helped to hide Mas Selamat were also arrested in the operation.

The news of his arrest was kept hidden for more than a month to facilitate investigation into his network here.

Singapore Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said Mas Selamat had used an improvised flotation device to escape from the north shore of Singapore to Johor Baru.

He said this happened after his escape from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27 last year where he was being held under the ISA.

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