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Indonesia Arrests Alleged Singaporean Head of Regional Militant Group - 2003-02-03


Indonesian police arrest a man they say is the Singaporean head of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. Authorities say Mas Selamat Kastari is behind a failed plot to fly a hijacked plane into Singapore's Changi International Airport.

A police spokesman says Mas Selamat Kastari was arrested Sunday on the Indonesian island of Bintan, a short ferry ride away from Singapore. Police say they had watched Mr. Kastari for days as he moved from the island of Bengkalis to Bintan's capital city Tanjungpinang. "We have information when he stay[ed] in Bengkalis and then we surveillance him until… [we] catch him in Tanjungpinang," said the spokesman.

Authorities say Mr. Kastari is the Singapore chief of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI. The group wants to form an Islamic state spanning much of Southeast Asia and is allegedly linked to the al-Qaida network.

Mr. Kastari is a Singaporean citizen. He is believed to have fled Singapore in December 2001, after authorities say they foiled his plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore's Changi airport.

Over the past year, the governments of Malaysia and Singapore have arrested more than 50 people they say are members of JI. Law enforcement officials say the group is responsible for a number of plots, including the bomb attack on the island of Bali in October. Nearly 200 people were killed when two bombs rocked a crowded tourist district. Indonesian police have arrested 29 people in connection with the crime, many of whom are suspected members of JI.

So far Mr. Kastari has not been formally linked to the Bali plot. Police say Mr. Kastari will be transferred to the Indonesian capital Jakarta or to Bali for further questioning, but have not provided a date.

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