- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia | An Islamic militant who escaped from a Singapore jail a year ago has been arrested in Malaysia, where his ability to remain in hiding for so long showed that terror networks in the region remain strong, officials said Friday.

Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from a high-security jail on Feb. 27, 2008, by wriggling out a bathroom window in a security breach that severely embarrassed the city-state known for its rigorous security.

Mas Selamat is the suspected commander of the Singapore arm of the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, a group accused of carrying out the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.

He was in custody under Singapore’s Internal Security Act, a law that allows indefinite detention without trial, for purportedly plotting to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore’s international airport.

Although he was caught on April 1 in the southern Malaysian state of Johor - barely a few miles from Singapore - the arrest was not announced until after a Singapore newspaper broke the news on its front page Friday.

“He escaped from Singapore and was hiding in Malaysia. We apprehended him here,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters. “He managed to get into Malaysia” a few days after his escape, Mr. Najib said.

He said Mas Selamat, who is in his late 40s, was not planning any attacks in Malaysia, but “we know that he was planning a lot of things in Singapore.”

The search for the fugitive largely focused on Singapore and neighboring Indonesia, where the local branch of Jemaah Islamiyah was thought likely to shelter him.

But Mas Selamat was arrested on the outskirts of Johor Baru, the capital of Johor state, which is separated from Singapore by a narrow strip of sea known as the Straits of Johor.

Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert, said that authorities found “very significant material” when they arrested Mas Selamat - documentation that could have been used in a terrorist attack.

Mr. Gunaratna, the head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, said two Malaysians linked to Mas Selamat also were arrested in Johor.

Mas Selamat first came to prominence in December 2001 when he fled Singapore following a crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah. He was arrested by Indonesian police on Bintan island in January 2006 and handed over to Singapore authorities.

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