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Militants Slip Away From Singapore

February 9, 2002

SINGAPORE (AP) _ As many as eight Islamic militants with alleged links to al-Qaida evaded a police sweep and slipped out of Singapore, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in an interview broadcast Saturday.

Singapore in December detained 15 suspected members of a radical Southeast Asian Muslim group called Jemaah Islamiyah and said they planned to bomb Western embassies, Navy ships and other targets in the Asian city-state. Two of the suspects were later released.

In addition to the arrests, there were ``five or eight others that got away,″ Lee said in the interview with CNN’s ``Talk Asia″ news program.

Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister, stepped down from that post in 1990 but still wields considerable power within the government under the title of senior minister.

He gave no details of the suspects who fled, such as their nationalities or where they might have gone.

Singapore officials say eight of the terror suspects they arrested were trained at camps in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorism network. They said Jemaah Islamiyah planned to procure 17 tons of ammonium nitrate for truck bombs, and that the group had four tons of the chemical stored in Malaysia.

Officials in the Philippines in January found more than a ton of TNT, which they said was intended for terrorist activities in Singapore.

The suspects arrested in Singapore _ and those who got away _ were linked to a Singaporean of Pakistani descent known as ``Aslam″ who was arrested by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan on Nov. 29, Lee said.

Officials have said they want Aslam repatriated, but have not said where he is being held. Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng has said that Aslam’s arrest in Afghanistan helped prompt the arrests in Singapore.

Update hourly