Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lee Kuan Yew Warns S'pore Must Brace Itself If Terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari Escapes To Indonesia

The city-state must brace itself for a "return hit sometime" if accused terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari has escaped to Indonesia, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew warned in a published report on Saturday.

The alleged leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamish's (JI's) Singapore branch, who fled from a detention centre last month, would not be able to launch an attack if he is still in Singapore, Lee said in a media wrap-up after a week-long visit to three Gulf nations.

The escape of the 47-year-old man accused of plotting six years ago to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport is a "very severe lesson in complacency" and shows that the city-state is not infallible, said Lee, Singapore's founding prime minister."We should have known that here is a man who has had several escapes," The Straits Times quoted Lee as saying. "But obviously, he is a very wily sort of person and must have won the confidence of whoever were his custodians."

"So when he said he wanted to go to the toilet, they allow him to go," Lee said. "Whether the toilet had bars and there was no exit from the windows, that has to be explained."

Authorities have not disclosed details of how Mas Selamat managed to escape from the Internal Security Department's detention centre, triggering criticism and ridicule on the internet for the country that has long prided itself for its security and restrictions.

Mas Selamat's escape has sparked the biggest manhunt in Singapore's history.

"I give him full marks for having won the confidence of his custodians - that he's completely docile, completely passive and he's going to remain in captivity," Lee said.

The public has been urged to be on the lookout for a man with a limp in a greenish-gray long-sleeved, hip-length shirt popular with Malays, which has been determined to be missing from Mas Selamat's belongings.

Still convinced the escapee is in Singapore, police are not relaxing their scouring of forests, jungle areas and the shores and seas. Inspections at checkpoints to Malaysia have left vehicles waiting for up to 15 hours.

Indonesia's army has also beefed up border patrols and set up roadblocks. The Java-born Mas Selamat fled Singapore in December 2001 and was subsequently arrested twice in Indonesia for violating the country's immigration laws. He was sent back to Singapore in 2006.

The escape shows "that it is a fallacy, it is stupid to believe we are infallible. We are not infallible. One mistake and we've got a big explosive in our midst. So let's not take this lightly," Lee was quoted as saying.

He called it a "very severe lesson of complacency." The authorities had been confident that they had their prisoner "sized up,' but he had sized up his custodians in turn.

Lee said he was not so worried as long as the fugitive had not made arrangements prior to his escape and was still in Singapore.

"He can't assemble an explosive in Singapore on his own, he can't get a team in Singapore, a JI team, to mount an attack," said Lee, referring to the South-East Asian terrorism network.

If he can get into Indonesia he "has his old networks," Lee said. "Then we have to watch out for a return hit sometime."

More than 1,000 officers from the Special Operations Command, police land divisions, Gurkhas and immigration officers have been involved in the search.

At the Singapore government's request, Interpol sent a photograph, fingerprints and other information to its 186 agencies worldwide, identifying the fugitive as a "potential threat to the safety and security of the public at large around the world."

Mas Selamat was also accused by the ministry of having been involved in plans to attack the US Embassy, the American Club and Singapore government buildings in retaliation for the city-state's arrest and detention of fellow JI members. (Trend News Agency, Azerbaijan)

***** To be constantly on guard for terrorist attacks by this person is a heavy price to pay for a momentary lapse of vigilance.
Image - Source

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