Mas Selamat Captured… Around Johor Bahru!

The big front page headline on Singapore newspapers today! Wonder which gang of Johor criminals he was bunking with?

(UPDATE: Actually, it was in a tiny village.)

From The Malaysian Insider 8 May 2009:

Singapore’s Mas Selamat captured in Johor

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Thirteen months after his audacious escape from detention in Singapore, Mas Selamat Kastari has been caught in Malaysia. Singapore’s most wanted terrorist was captured on April 1 while hiding in Johor, regional intelligence sources told The Straits Times.

It is believed that he was nabbed on the outskirts of Johor Baru and is now being held by the Malaysian authorities for interrogation.

It is not known how he slipped out of Singapore or when he entered Malaysia.

Although he was arrested six weeks ago, the Malaysian authorities have not yet announced the capture.

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.

He declined to say when the terrorist would be handed over to the Singapore authorities.

It is believed that the fugitive had stayed in Johor all this time and had not travelled further north. He is also believed to be detained in Johor.

Sources told The Straits Times that the 48-year-old was tracked down based on intelligence provided by Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD), and a joint operation by Malaysia and Singapore’s security agencies eventually led to his arrest.

The capture of Mas Selamat brings to an end one of the largest manhunts ever undertaken by Singapore and its neighbours for a terrorist on the run.

A source said that the Singapore side had picked up a lead on Mas Selamat’s trail towards the end of last year and pursued it.

When that proved to be a credible lead, they passed on the information to the Malaysian authorities.

Mas Selamat’s arrest would have occurred around the same time that the Malaysian authorities captured three other people for suspected activities linked to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network.

They arrested Agus Salim, a 32-year-old Indonesian, in March and two Malaysians, Abdul Matin Anol Rahmat and Johar Hassan, on April 1.

Mas Selamat’s capture would also mark the third time that the Singapore ISD — which came under tremendous pressure and incurred public wrath for allowing him to escape from detention — had tracked him down.

Mas Selamat, who was born in Indonesia but migrated to Singapore in his youth, is married and has five children — four boys and a girl.

Recruited into the religious council of the Singapore JI cell in 1992, he later became the head of the Singapore chapter of the regional terror group, and first emerged on the radar of regional intelligence agencies in early 2002.

That was after he threatened to hijack an aeroplane to crash into Changi Airport, in retaliation against the arrests of dozens of suspected JI operatives in Singapore and Malaysia several months earlier. The threat was never carried out.

Intelligence provided by Singapore led to Mas Selamat’s first arrest by the Indonesian authorities in February 2003 on Bintan Island. He was jailed 18 months for immigration offences.

A botched escape attempt during his imprisonment left him with a broken left leg and a permanent limp.

He was not handed over to Singapore after he served his prison term and went missing for about five months.

Again, with the help of intelligence from Singapore, he was captured a second time by the Indonesian authorities in early 2006 for using a fake identity card. This time, Indonesia granted Singapore’s request to extradite him.

He was handed over in February 2006 and was immediately detained under the Internal Security Act.

He was held here from then until his escape on Feb 27 last year from the Whitley Road Detention centre.

In the inquiry that followed, it emerged that Mas Selamat broke free that afternoon by duping his guards during a toilet break.

While the guards waited for him, he climbed through an unsecured toilet window, had a soft landing on a mound of toilet paper rolls he had collected beforehand, bounded over two perimeter fences and vanished.

A massive manhunt followed, first in the areas surrounding the detention centre and then across Singapore, and in heavily forested areas.

As months went by with no sign of the escaped terrorist, there was speculation that he had fled Singapore, or might even be dead.

The fallout from his escape resulted in the sacking or demotion of nine prison guards and ISD officials, including the commander of the Whitley Road Detention Centre and his superior.

The authorities also came under severe fire for allowing precious minutes to elapse before the escape —which took around 49 seconds, when re-enacted — was reported.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng described the mistakes and security lapses that had occurred as being “so simple as to appear silly and incredible”.

For a long time the Singapore authorities said they believed that Mas Selamat was still in Singapore. But in an interview with The Straits Times in January this year, Wong said the fugitive was either still in Singapore, hidden by sympathisers, or had fled the country — a scenario he said was “more plausible”. — Straits Times

Way to go Malaysia and Singapore cops!!!

Now how’s about nabbing all those ‘common’ Johor criminals?

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