Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mas Selamat Kastari hideout

Source - the star online

Safe haven: The house in Kampung Tawakal in Skudai, Johor, where Mas Selamat led a secluded life for the past few months until his sudden arrest last month. The Star pic

Snug refuge: This is the interior of the lower part of the house, where Mas Selamat spent most of his time. The room has two sofa sets, a punching bag, a shelf of books, a table, as well as an aquarium (on top of cabinet at right) containing dead fish in murky water.

The hunt for Indonesian, Mas Selamat Kastari, 48, one of the region most wanted terrorists, began after the head of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiah, JI, escaped the maximum security Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore while on a toilet break on Feb 27, 2008.

This sparked a massive regional hunt for the militant who is suspected to have planned various terror plots, including crashing a plane into Changi airport in Singapore as well as attacking different targets, such as the American Embassy and the Singapore American School.

Described as highly dangerous, the 48-year-old Mas Selamat who was trained in firearms and explosives, was said to be masterminding “unrest” in several countries in the region.

The radical JI movement with key figures such as religious scholar Abu Bakar Basyir and Hambali was linked to Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden. While Abu Bakar, who was jailed and then freed had denied any involvement in terrorist activities, Hambali is still being detained at the infamous Guatanamo Bay. The movement, which aimed to set up a Pan Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, was said to have carried out several bombings in Jakarta, Bali and Manila.

Hambali or Riduan Isamuddin is also known as the Osama bin Laden of South East Asia.

Hambali was arrested in a joint operation between the Thai police and the CIA on August 11, 2003 in his one bedroom apartment in Ayutthaya, 75 km north of Bangkok, Thailand.

Now back to Mas Selamat Kastari.

Regional intelligence sources said Mas Selamat, who escaped the maximum security detention centre by climbing out through the toilet window, fled to the northern part of Singapore before swimming across to Johor.

Mas Selamat managed the feat despite having leg injuries. He walked with a limp on his left leg prior to his escape.

On the day of his escape on Feb 27, 2008, Mas Selamat had asked to go to the toilet when family members visited him at the detention centre. He escaped via an unsecured window in the toilet before swimming more than 1 kilometre to Stulang, Johor.

His escape greatly embarrassed the Singa­pore Government which then launched a massive manhunt, described as the largest ever in the republic, for him.

Singapore also sought Interpol’s help and an urgent worldwide security alert was activated.

3 telecommunications companies in Singapore sent out MMS to its 5.5mil subscribers with Mas Selamat’s photo and describing him as short at 1.58m and limped on his left leg.

He was previously jailed in Bintan, Indonesia for using a fake identity card and was handed over to Singapore in 2006 for detention under the Internal Security Act without trial.

Mas Selamat has a S$1 Million Dollar or RM2.4 million Ringgit reward for his arrest.

However after 14 months on the run, Mas Selamat was arrested at a secluded village in Johor, Malaysia, near Singapore.

The fugitive militant found the perfect spot to hide - a secluded village in Johor unmarked on any map, not even Google Earth, making it extra hard for Interpol to detect and arrest him.

He found a traditional kampung house on stilts in Kampung Tawakal, a tiny village with a population of less than 100.

Located about 10km away from the North-South Expressway near the Kempas exit, it is almost impossible to locate for those not familiar with the area.

All around are oil palm trees and there are no signboards pointing to the village as one drives along the main road of Jalan Kampung Maju Jaya.

About 5km away sits the exclusive Starhill Golf and Country Club.

Tawakal villagers are still shocked that a fugitive, described as dangerous by the authorities, had been living in their midst.

According to some of them, Mas Selamat rarely left his house and when he did venture out, it was usually after dark. He would be dressed in a long white robe and white turban.

At times, he was seen gardening in the sprawling compound using a hoe.

“Sometimes we would call out Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) to him, and he would reply. But nothing more,” said a 10-year old girl who declined to be named.

“He never spoke to anyone and kept to himself. And he never prayed at the local surau,’’ said Mohd Saat Marjo, 56, a villager who lived opposite the fugitive’s home.

Showed a picture of Mas Selamat published in The Star, he exclaimed: “Yes, yes, he’s the man who lived here!”

Villagers relived the moment one early April morning when police stormed the house he was living in and arrested the fugitive.

Mohd Saat recalled: “It was about 6am. About 30 armed policemen surrounded the kampung house and ordered Mas Selamat to come out.

“When he refused, they broke through two doors and rushed in,’’ he said, adding that it was like a scene out of the police TV serial, Gerak Khas.

Mohd Saat said villagers then saw Mas Selamat being led out with his face covered in a dark blue checked cloth before he was swiftly bundled into a police vehicle and taken away.

He said police were also seen combing the area with bomb detectors to ensure that the house was free of explosives.

A peek into the house Mas Selamat was living in showed that things were neat and tidy - except for an aquarium with dead fish floating in murky water. A punching bag hung in the living area.

The house is surrounded by mangosteen, guava, coconut and banana trees.

According to Mohd Saat, Mas Selamat occupied the basement of the house which had been refurbished.

He was believed to be renting the house from a man called Johar, who lived in the upper portion of the house with his wife and two young children.

Villagers said even Johar and his family were reclusive and did not get involved in village activities.

“They also never received any visitors,’’ said Mohd Saat.

Meanwhile, the landlord of the house where fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari was caught hiding in was arrested last week at his work place.

Villagers at Kampung Tawakal said the man, known as Johar, was a contractor.

They described him as the “quiet type,” just like Mas Selamat.

Many believed that it was Johar who had tipped off police about Mas Selamat’s whereabouts.

Villagers said that it was hard to keep track of people living in the area as many of the houses were rented out to tenants who kept moving out.

Shopkeeper Roslan Talib, 39, said Johar often came to buy groceries from his shop.

“I heard that Mas Selamat often went fishing at the canal behind his house,’’ he said.

Roslan said that it was a pity he did not know Mas Selamat lived nearby or they would have reported him to get the S$1mil (RM2.4mil) reward offered for his arrest.

Meanwhile Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed his gratitude to Malaysia for arresting Mas Selamat Kastari, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

Lee also told Najib that he was glad the Malaysian authorities had managed to catch the Jemaah Islamiah leader after he escaped a maximum security detention centre in the republic on Feb 27 last year, and eluded a massive manhunt launched by the Singaporean authorities.

Najib said he would discuss the matter further with Lee during his visit to Singapore, scheduled for next week.

“I have mentioned the capture to (Lee) Hsien Loong when we talked in Pattaya (during the Asean + 3 meeting.) He is very happy and grateful that we have succeeded in apprehending Mas Selamat.

“He was planning a lot of things in Singapore. He escaped from Singapore and was hiding in Malaysia but his main focus was in Singapore,” he said, confirming that Mas Selamat had managed to slip into the country a few days after his escape.

Asked if Mas Selamat would now be repatriated to Singapore, Najib said he would have to consult the police on the matter.

Najib also congratulated the police for having successfully caught Mas Selamat, who is considered to be a threat to national security.


Vigilante said...

Fair trials are luxuries. Terrorists require an entirely different approach.

I say Gitmo has to be cleaned out, fixed up, made transparent and internationalized. Guys like Mas Selamat Kastari can be housed there indefinitely: fed well; no torture; visited only by the IRC or equivalent. He stays there for "the duration".

Malaysian Hollywood 2.0 said...

you are right Vigilante.. this time make sure 20 fully armed men escort Mas Selamat Kastari every time he want to go to the loo...!!

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