- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Feb. 3 (UPI) — Indonesian police said Monday they had arrested one of the regions most wanted terror suspects, the alleged head of the Singapore branch of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamic militant group believed behind last year's deadly Bali bombings.

Commissioner General Erwin Mappaseng, chief of the Indonesian criminal investigation bureau, announced that Singapore national Mas Selamat bin Kastari had been arrested on Sunday in Tanjung Pinang, a district town on the Indonesian island of Bintang, about 60 miles south of Singapore.

"Kastari's position is the head of J.I. in Singapore," Mappaseng told reporters. "He has been declared a fugitive by Interpol."

Kastari has been on the run since Dec. 2001, when a plot by Jemaah Islamiyah members to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Singapore was discovered and 13 of them were arrested. He threatened to retaliate by hijacking an airliner from Bangkok, Thailand, and crashing it into Singapore's Changi airport, according to a White Paper released last month by the Singapore government.

Experts on Islamic terror — including researchers for the International Crisis Group in Indonesia — say Jemaah Islamiyah aims to establish a pan-national Muslim state in South East Asia.

Kastari is believed to have entered Indonesia through the port of Dumai, Riau using a fake passport and identification card, Mappaseng said.

Mappaseng said Kastari was being questioned.

Last week, Indonesian police formally accused Jemaah Islamiyah — an Islamic group allegedly linked with the al Qaida terror network — of being behind the Bali bombings on Oct. 12 last year that left more than 190 people — mostly tourists — dead, but Mappaseng said Kastari had not been named a suspect in that attack.

Abu Bakar Baasyir, the 64 year-old Muslim cleric and alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, has been under arrest in Jakarta since Oct. 20 last year. He is accused of masterminding a series of church bombings in 2000 and an alleged plot to assassinate Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, but has not been named a suspect in the Bali bombings investigation.

Baasyir has denied involvement and claims Jemaah Islamiyah does not exist.

Indonesian police have so far arrested 29 people, in the hunt for the Bali bombers. These include the three suspects charged with being at the heart of the plot: Amrozi, his elder brother Muhklas alias Ali Gufron, their younger brother Ali Imron and Imam Samudra alias Abdul Azis. Several other key suspects — including the alleged operational head of Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali, are still on the run.

Last week, Australian officials said that the arrests had prevented other attacks being planned by the group.

In other news Monday, local radio reports said that an explosion inside the compound of the Indonesian national police headquarters in South Jakarta had rattled windows and shaken buildings, but caused no injuries.

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