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Indonesian Police Claim Terror Arrest

February 3, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesian police said Monday they arrested the alleged head of a terrorist cell in Singapore who is suspected of plotting to hijack a plane and crash it into the Singapore airport.

Mas Selamat Kastari is believed to be the head of the Singapore branch of the regional Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is accused of carrying out last year’s bombings on the tourist island of Bali.

He was arrested on Indonesia’s Bintan island, a short ferry ride south of Singapore, on Sunday night, chief of national police detectives Lt. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng said.

``Kastari is the head of Jemaah Islamiyah in Singapore,″ police spokesman Col. Didi Rochiyadi told The Associated Press. ``He is now being detained on Bintan for further questioning.″

The arrest was the latest sign that Jakarta is becoming more active in the regional fight against terror. In the past, Singapore routinely chastised Indonesia for being soft of terrorism and harboring militants fleeing Singapore and Malaysia.

But since the Oct. 12 Bali bombings, which killed nearly 200 people, Indonesia has been cracking down on hard-line Islamic groups and arrested more than two dozen suspects in the Bali attack, some with connections to Jemaah Islamiyah.

Kastari, a citizen of Singapore, was arrested at the request of Singapore’s government, which has said he was devising a plot to hijack an American, British or Singaporean plane and crash it into Singapore’s Changi International Airport.

Kastari also has been accused of planning to attack U.S. military personnel and their families who shuttle regularly from a subway station near a naval facility in Singapore.

Singapore officials said they were trying to confirm that the man under arrest was Kastari.

``Our Indonesian counterparts have informed us of the arrest of a Singaporean who is purportedly Mas Selamat Kastari,″ said Peck Wan, director of corporate communications for the Ministry of Home Affairs. ``We will be taking action to confirm his identity. We will continue to work closely with our Indonesian counterparts.″

It remains unclear whether Singapore will request that Kastari be turned over to them. Singapore has no extradition treaty with Indonesia.

Kastari is believed to have fled Singapore shortly after the arrest of 13 Jemaah Islamiyah members in the city-state in December 2001.

Andrew Tan, an analyst with Singapore’s Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, said the Kastari arrest was ``significant because the Indonesian authorities are beginning to track down members of Jemaah Islamiyah who are wanted by the Singapore government.″

Regional governments and Indonesian police have blamed Jemaah Islamiyah for the Bali bombings. Kastari has not been named a suspect in that attack.

More than 50 alleged Jemaah Islamiyah members have been arrested in Malaysia and Singapore over the last year. Many have spent time in Afghanistan, where regional officials say they learned bomb-making skills.

The group’s alleged goal is to create a regional Islamic state. Several senior figures in the group remain at large, including its suspected operations chief, Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin.

Jemaah Islamiyah’s alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, was arrested last year and is in custody in Jakarta. Police say they plan to charge him over a series of church bombings in 2000 and have implicated him in the Bali bombings.

He denies involvement and claims Jemaah Islamiyah does not exist.

Update hourly