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Politic-Economic-Society-Tech

Singapore Uncovers Plane Crash Plot

A Singaporean member of an Islamic militant group linked to al-Qaida is suspected of planning to hijack a plane and crash it into the city-state's international airport, Singapore's prime minister said Friday.

The suspect belongs to Jemaah Islamiyah, a group implicated in an alleged plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy and other Western targets in Singapore, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told Parliament.

Goh identified the suspect as Mas Selemat Kastari. He is believed to have fled to Thailand in January.

Kastari was suspected of planning to hijack an aircraft from Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand and crash it into Singapore's Changi Airport, Goh said. It was unclear if the alleged hijacking plan was to be carried out simultaneously with the other attacks.

Authorities say that Jemaah Islamiyah is linked to al-Qaida the terrorist network believed to have carried out the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and is campaigning for a single hardcore Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.

Thirteen other suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah were arrested in Singapore in December in connection with the alleged plot to bomb Western targets and the U.S. Embassy.

Goh's comments suggested that the group's reach was wider than Singapore.

``Jemaah Islamiyah may also have Thai connections,'' he said. ``In January this year, a Singaporean Jemaah Islamiyah fugitive, Mas Selemat Kastari, and four others were believed to have fled to Thailand.''

Goh did not give names or other details about the other four fugitives.

He told Parliament that Southeast Asia faces an increasing homegrown terror threat.

``It is not just al-Qaida we are concerned with. It is militant Islam in our region. The al-Qaida terrorists are primarily against the Americans. The radical groups in our region have a different, regional agenda. The two have combined forces,'' he said.

While Thailand is primarily Buddhist, it has a minority Muslim population in its southern provinces, along the border with largely Muslim Malaysia.

In Bangkok, Lt. Gen. Hemaraj Tharithai, chief of Thailand's Immigration Police, said he had received no reports ``that Singaporean terrorists crossed the border to Thailand.''

Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew recently said that members of an Indonesian Muslim group connected to the Singapore bombing plot remain free in Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim nation. Lee's statements sparked a diplomatic row with Jakarta.


source: The Associated Press, Fri 5 Apr 2002


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