Updated 6.37pm, 8 May 2009
SINGAPORE, 8 May 2009: Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected leader of the Jemaah Islamiah militant group, who escaped from a Singapore detention centre here last year has been caught in Malaysia, according to local media reports today.
The fugitive, who had been hunted on a massive scale by the city-state authorities since he slipped out of the Whitley Road detention centre on 27 Feb, was captured on 1 April while hiding in Johor, The Straits Times said quoting sources.
The report said Mas Selamat, 48, was nabbed in the outskirts of Johor Baru and is now being held by the Malaysian authorities for interrogation.
He was the alleged mastermind of a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore’s Changi Airport.
He fled Singapore in 2001 but was captured by the Indonesian police on Bintan Island in 2006, and later repatriated to the city-state.
The paper said a senior Malaysian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest and said that Mas Selamat was being held under the country’s Internal Security Act.
The report also said that the terrorist was tracked down based on intelligence provided by Singapore’s Internal Security Department, and a joint operation by Malaysia and Singapore’s security agencies eventually led to his arrest.
The report said the fugitive had stayed in Johor all this time and had not travelled further north.
The capture of Mas Selamat brings to an end one of the largest manhunts ever undertaken by Singapore for a terrorist on the run.
Meanwhile in SINGAPORE, its Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said Mas Selamat used an improvised flotation device to escape from the north shore of Singapore to Johor Baru.
He said this happened after the terrorist escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27 last year where he was being held under the Internal Security Act.
Wong said this here today as his ministry confirmed the arrest of Mas Selamat, saying he had been arrested by the Malaysian Special Branch police.
Wong, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, said Singapore was happy that Mas Selamat had been arrested, adding that the Malaysian police had done an excellent work.
Mas Selamat would be brought back to Singapore and sent to the same detention centre again, which had its security features upgraded, after the Malaysian completed their interrogation, he added.
Wong said Mas Selamat’s arrest came after the Malaysian authorities were tipped-off about his whereabouts late last year, and the Singapore government was informed of the arrest soon after it occurred.
In PUTRAJAYA, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today confirmed that Mas Selamat’s capture.
“Yes, I can confirm that he is under our detention and is being investigated right now. But I can’t go into the detail because this is a sensitive issue which involves three parties namely Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
“It also involves intelligence agencies of the three governments and it is something that I do not want to jeopardise,” he told a news conference here today. — Bernama