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Macau Daily Times
Singapore’s most wanted man, terror suspect Mas Selamat bin Kastari, remains at large a month after his escape from detention, but police vowed yesterday to eventually catch him.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said Kastari is still believed to be in the city state – an urban jungle of skyscrapers and high-rises, but which also has an extensive area of nature reserves.
“The best available information from our own sources and from our foreign security and intelligence partners suggest that Mas Selamat is still in hiding in Singapore,” Wong said in a statement.
Security forces will continue the hunt “for as long as it takes until he is apprehended,” he added.
Kastari, 47, the alleged Singapore leader of the Southeast Asia-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network, escaped from a tightly-guarded facility here on February 27.
Some analysts said the apparent ease with which he escaped – sparking the biggest manhunt in the country’s history – tarnished Singapore’s reputation for tough security.
The fugitive’s photos have been plastered across the island and millions of mobile phone subscribers have received pictures of him via a multi-messaging system for free.
Interpol has also issued an international red alert for Kastari, who slipped away after being allowed to use the toilet during a visit from relatives.
Kastari was accused of plotting to hijack a plane in order to crash it into Singapore’s Changi Airport in 2001 but was never charged. He was being held under a law that allows the government to detain suspects without trial.
Wong said yesterday that security forces would in a week scale down the large-scale deployment of ground troops scouring forested areas for the fugitive and focus on more targeted searches based on specific intelligence.
The JI is blamed for a string of attacks in Southeast Asia, including bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002 which killed 202 people, most of them tourists.
Terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said: “If he is still in Singapore, it is likely that someone is hiding him. Otherwise, he could be in Indonesia or Malaysia.”
Kastari remains an important member of the JI network and still poses a danger to Singapore, Gunaratna noted.
“The very fact that he escaped demonstrates that he is committed to extremism and terrorism,” he said.
Singapore’s founding father and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said earlier this month that the city state should brace for an attack if Kastari flees and rejoins his JI comrades in Indonesia.