Malaysia returns terrorist suspect who escaped from high-security Singapore prison

By Julia Zappei, AP
Friday, September 24, 2010

Malaysia hands over terrorist suspect to Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia on Friday handed a terrorist suspect over to Singapore who had staged a dramatic escape 2 1/2 years earlier from a high-security prison in the city-state.

Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected commander of the Singapore arm of the al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, is accused of plotting to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore’s international airport.

Singapore’s Home Ministry said Mas Selamat, who is in his late 40s, was arrested under Singapore’s Internal Security Act — which allows indefinite detention without trial — soon after he was handed over by Malaysia.

Malaysian and Singaporean officials refused to say why Mas Selamat was moved to Singapore, but the island nation had long sought his custody.

His deportation came two days after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Singapore for talks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on a land-swap deal.

The Singapore Home Ministry said in a statement that Mas Selamat’s capture and deportation illustrated “the long-standing close cooperation between the Malaysian and Singaporean security agencies, which has served both countries well.”

Mas Selamat, a Singaporean of Indonesian origin, escaped from a heavily guarded jail in Singapore on Feb. 27, 2008, by wriggling out of a bathroom window in a shocking breach that severely embarrassed the city-state known for its rigorous security. His ability to remain in hiding for more than a year underscored that terrorist networks in the region remain strong.

The search for Mas Selamat initially focused on Singapore and neighboring Indonesia, where it was thought the local branch of Jemaah Islamiyah could provide shelter for him.

After a year on the run, he was captured in southern Malaysia on April 1, 2009, and detained under the Internal Security Act, which is similar to Singapore’s ISA.

Mas Selamat first fled Singapore in December 2001 following a crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah. He was arrested by Indonesian police on Bintan island in January 2006 and handed over to Singapore authorities.

Jemaah Islamiyah is accused of carrying out the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.

Associated Press Writer Vijay Joshi contributed to this report.

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