Singapore, which prides itself on rigorous anti-terrorist measures, yesterday blamed a security lapse for the escape of an alleged leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant network.
Authorities mounted a massive manhunt as analysts said Mas Selamat bin Kastari, accused of planning to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport, would try to flee to Indonesia.
"This should never have happened. I'm sorry that it has," Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng (
Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said Kastari had escaped once when he was in Indonesia, but his flight from the Singapore facility was unexpected.
"I think that it has surprised the Singapore authorities and everyone because Singapore's security systems are world-class," he said.
The ministry said Kastari walks with a limp and was not known to be armed.
It said he escaped on Wednesday afternoon from the Whitley Road Detention Center, which holds prisoners detained by the Internal Security Department.
Wong said Kastari had been taken from his cell to the family visit room to await his family.
"He asked to go to the toilet, where he escaped," Wong said.
The minister was responding to a member of parliament who said the escape "raised concerns about our police force vigilance and security operating procedures."
Wong said security had been tightened at all air, sea and land checkpoints and no effort would be spared to locate Kastari, who analysts say received military training in Afghanistan.
Soldiers, Special Operations police and paramilitary Nepalese Gurkhas had joined the manhunt.
Clive Williams, a professor with the Australian Defence Force Academy, predicted Kastari would try to reach Indonesia, "because if he stays in Singapore he's going to be arrested fairly quickly I would think."
Kastari, born in 1961, was arrested on the Indonesian island of Bintan near Singapore in 2003 and sentenced by a court there to 18 months in jail.
He was later released but arrested again by Indonesian authorities in January 2006 before being handed over to Singapore.
Kastari had fled Singapore in December 2001 following an Internal Security Department operation against JI, the Home Affairs ministry said previously.
"He was among those who had planned retaliation against Singapore for arresting and detaining his fellow JI members. He had planned to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport," the ministry said.
Singapore authorities arrested 15 people in December 2001 -- 13 of whom were suspected JI members -- who allegedly planned to attack a bus carrying Americans to a subway station.
Businesses, offices and schools operated normally despite the massive security presence.
Wong said security agencies had concluded there was "no imminent danger" to the public after Kastari's escape.
He said an independent investigation was being conducted into the incident.
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client
DELIVERING HOPE: The Japanese PM pledged to push ahead with plans to stage the Games, despite polls showing about 80% think they will not or should not happen Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday vowed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympic Games this summer with ample protection. In a speech opening a new session of parliament, Suga said that his government would revise laws to make disease prevention measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its caseload manageable with nonbinding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing, and for people to stay at home, but recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes
The Palauan president-elect has vowed to stand up to Chinese “bullying” in the Pacific, saying that the archipelago nation is set to stand by its alliances with “true friends,” Taiwan and the US. Surangel Whipps Jr, 52, a supermarket owner and two-time senator from a prominent Palauan family, is to be sworn in as the new president tomorrow, succeeding his brother-in-law, Tommy Remengesau Jr. In a forthright interview, Whipps said that the US had demonstrated over the years that it was a reliable friend of Palau, most recently shown by its delivery of 6,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s important for