An Apology Means Little Until the Escaped Terrorist is Caught

Coincidentally still on the focus on apologies and making amends, the latest news of a JI prisoner escaping in Singapore shocked me. How can the ISD be so inept and allow such a thing to happen? The Home Affairs Minister remarked perhaps meekly in parliament

“This should never have happened…. I am sorry that it had. An independent investigation is under way and we should not speculate on what and how it happened.”

It was not that he overpowered the guards in a freak getaway. Instead, he escaped from the toilet in a Murphy’s Law but still inexcusable scenario. Since he was a JI leader who fled to Indonesia and hid there for some time, Mas Selamat is no stranger to being evasive and the authorities will be pitted against a desperate wily prey who is fleeing for his life. I don’t think the police can catch him that easily like they did with Dave Teo and the whole affair would last a few days at least before he is caught.

There is little news on the manner of the escape e.g. were there accomplices since it was timed during his family visit? At least the authorities are showing visible vigilance in a better late than never manhunt. However, that is assuring but not enough. The government was open about the arrest of JI members in the past, and ISD should be open about its horrifying lapses when the time comes soon. But the first thing they can do is to capture slippery Mas Selamat who squeezed through a police dragnet before during the first round of JI arrests in 2001. Hopefully, witnesses can provide genuine clues on sightings of the JI leader and not make hoaxes such that resouces in hunting Mas Selamat down are wasted. Until Mas Selamat is re-captured, Wong Kan Seng’s apology means little.

Singapore says sorry after terror group leader escapes, massive manhunt launched

The Associated Press
Thursday, February 28, 2008

SINGAPORE: The Singapore government apologized Thursday for a rare security lapse after an alleged Islamic terror leader escaped from jail, triggering a massive manhunt across the island nation for a man who walks with a limp.

Mas Selamat Kastari, who had allegedly plotted to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore’s Changi airport, slipped away from a detention center on Wednesday, authorities said. Mas Selamat is said to be commander of the al-Qaida linked Jemaah Islamiyah’s Singapore arm.

Minister of Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng said Mas Selamat escaped after being taken from his cell to go to a room to wait for his family who were scheduled for a visit.

Mas Selamat was granted permission to visit the washroom and then escaped, Wong said in Parliament.

“This should never have happened,” said Wong who is also the deputy prime minister. “I am sorry that it had. An independent investigation is under way and we should not speculate on what and how it happened.”

Security breaches are virtually unheard of in Singapore, a small and densely populated island whose sophisticated intelligence system has been liberally used to ensure order and peace.

The security system has taken pride in pre-empting alleged plots to bomb the U.S. Embassy, the American Club and government buildings in 2001, in which Mas Selamat allegedly had a hand.

The Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement that Mas Selamat was at large after fleeing the Whitely Road Detention Center in a wooded residential area in central Singapore. He walks with a limp, it said.

“Extensive police resources have been deployed to track him down,” it said, adding that he was not known to be armed.

A security blockade was thrown around the detention center. The facility ? guarded by elite Nepalese Gurkha officers ? is enclosed by high fences topped with barbed wire, with closed-circuit television camera surveillance around the perimeter.

Hundreds of police officers and military personnel fanned out, setting up roadblocks to check passing cars. Dozens of riot police trucks were parked along main roads.

It takes less than an hour to drive from one end of Singapore to the other. However, it is only a short boat ride from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Indonesian security officials said they would work with Singapore to prepare for the likelihood that Mas Selamat might attempt to come over.

Mas Selamat “would think Indonesia is the safest place” where it would likely be easier to hide, said Nasir Abbas, a former Jemaah Islamiyah operative who now works closely with Indonesian police.

Malaysia’s police chief Musa Hassan said his forces were on the lookout as well but have made no special arrangements to tighten border security other than inform border authorities.

“We have not received any special request from Singapore as yet,” Musa said. “We have not sighted him yet.”

Singapore, a close ally of the United States, was named an al-Qaida target in a transcript from alleged al-Qaida operative Khalid Sheikh Mohamed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, held last year at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ministry said Mas Selamat’s plane hijack plot was in retaliation for the country’s arrest and detention of some of his fellow Jemaah Islamiyah members in a crackdown on the militant group’s operatives here.

The alleged schemes were never carried out.

Mas Selamat left Singapore in December 2001 following the arrests of nearly 40 other suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members.

The ministry’s Web site said Indonesian authorities detained him in February 2003 on charges related to possession of falsified identification documents. They deported him to Singapore in February 2006, the ministry said.

Mas Selamat has since been held in custody under Singapore’s Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Since 2002, Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a series of terror attacks that have killed more than 250 people, most of them in Indonesia. Scores of its suspected operatives have been arrested across Southeast Asia since 2000.


18 responses

  1. Pingback: Bloggers’ reaction to JI leader’s escape « theonlinecitizen

  2. Nicholas Lazarus

    What we have learnt and should always remember are that the JI operatives are extremely dedicated and deadly disciples of Osama Bin Ladin. This particular JI operative was forged from the fires of Afghanistan and perhaps the most intelligent and cunning amongst the organisation. How else could he be their leader! That he has escaped is an indication of how dangerous JI operatives truly are. In my view, it is not the fault of our security forces. It is easy with the benefit of hindsight to criticise but bear in mind that even the CIA and the FBI could not prevent 9-11. Even the British M15 could not prevent the London bombings. We should rally behind and support our security forces and not undermine them.

    February 29, 2008 at 10:22 am

  3. Hi Nicholas

    I think you are missing the point.

    Did the CIA and FBI and M15 let a detained terrorist go whilst he was still in their custody?

    What type of warped logic are you using? And which planet are you living on?

    Have you even served National Service in either the SAF, SPF or SCDF?

    Whilst I was doing guard duty back during my NSF days, we even escorted visitors within army camps. This is a terrorist detainee and we don’t even supervise him going toilet? WTF?

    You a die-hard pappy supporter?

    February 29, 2008 at 12:59 pm

  4. artemov

    Hmmm … why did Nicolas go around the blogs posting the same excuses?

    February 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm

  5. nook lizard

    ALERT: someone going through the list on SD, copy & paste the same old stuff in the list. By the way, panzergrenadier, he is. NL is from YPAP blog, google his name and you will be amazed how much logic he has.

    February 29, 2008 at 3:02 pm

  6. Nicholas Lazarus

    I think truth is sometimes stranger than fiction and this man is not ordinary and certainly not disabled.

    In any event, we should not criticise our security forces at this time. There is a time and a place for opposing and a time and a place for standing together.

    February 29, 2008 at 4:42 pm

  7. limping man

    Then, why in every posters, announcements and statement, they keep mentioning the fact that this guy is disabled with a limping left leg. The main concern is always on this limping detail.

    Oh, the security forces are definitely standing together. The rest of us are also standing together too on this issue.

    February 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm

  8. Potato Head

    I think there is too much emphasis on his limp. Com’on, most old people limp. Even i limp after a crunching tackle at my sunday morn games.

    Hope the authorities will reveal more identifying traits. All we know is he is middle aged, has a limp on his left leg, and is 1.6m tall.

    February 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm

  9. Boon

    Might not be the real N Lazarus but an imposter. Just like last time Perry Tong was impersonated. Take nothing at face value.

    The more important issue is to get that fugitive. He needs to come out of hiding eventually and the public must watch for him.

    Someone must resign for this security booboo.

    February 29, 2008 at 10:45 pm

  10. Pingback: SGDaily Roundup: Week 9 « The Singapore Daily

  11. Ronnie Tan

    Lets be alert and vigilant for this fellow. Dont play play with him. You dont know what is he up to. Early catch him, early we rest our mind.

    March 1, 2008 at 3:04 pm

  12. Ronnie

    Mistake, accident do happen. But each time we know how to point our finger at someone. Our deputy PM also has many jobs to attend to, and just because the duty officer did not do his job and focusing all his attention on this J.I., causing him to run away. However, I do agreed why the public were not alerted until few hours later, perhaps this is a wrong choice. What happen if this madness, gone into some home and start killing people inside, or worst still, mishap like using gas cyclinder as his bomb?? If the public were alerted, there might be people might has sighted him and reported to the POLICE.

    March 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm

  13. White Cockroach

    hi ronnie.

    u r right. we can point finger all we wan but it is more useful if we point finger at msk. lets all keep our eyes peeled for this a**hole. he wanted to fly a plane into changi airport leh!!

    minister suck our money but this terrorist wanna suck our blood.

    *patriotic anthem* singapore boleh!

    March 1, 2008 at 4:31 pm

  14. chemgen

    A horrendous mistake was made. Whether negligence or not, an ample grilling will be carried out as public safety is in question. As some guys here have said, let’s be vigilant for this chap on the loose. He is probably still in Singapore in ulu areas and come out at night if he is as smart as he is made out to be (JI leader, elusive, escaped before in Indonesia).

    March 1, 2008 at 7:22 pm

  15. Onlooker

    Actually the british are looking into the validity of 911 but in our case It’s Toilet Break.
    I think this warrant a pay cut if not anything else 🙂

    March 1, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  16. Pingback: SG Daily Special: JI Terrorist Escapes « The Singapore Daily

  17. Pingback: Daily SG: 29 Feb 2008 « The Singapore Daily

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