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Singapore Says Terror Suspects Plotted Against US Targets - 2002-01-07

The government of Singapore says 15 alleged terrorists arrested recently had targeted several American establishments, including the U.S. Embassy. A government official Monday urged the public to remain calm, saying all necessary measures have been taken to defend the country against terrorist threats.

Singapore's Interior Ministry Monday says it has evidence that the U.S. Embassy and several American businesses were the principal targets for attacks.

15 people were detained last month under Singapore's Internal Security Act. The ministry said in a statement that a search of the suspects' homes and offices yielded information on bomb construction, photographs of targeted buildings, and passports and other documents it says show links to the al-Qaida terrorist group.

The Singaporean government says several of the detainees trained in Afghanistan, where al-Qaida had training camps. Fourteen of the suspects are Singaporeans, and one is from neighboring Malaysia.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Singapore expressed confidence in the measures taken by Singapore to provide a secure environment for Americans and American institutions in the country. The spokesman says the actions indicate the two governments share the same concerns regarding international terrorism and are cooperating closely on such matters.

The Singapore government says the detainees also had ties to a Malaysian group that reportedly wants to establish an Islamic state in the region.

Malaysian authorities last month arrested 13 members of the Militant Group of Malaysia. It says they had links to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French national of Algerian origin who is facing trial in the United States on charges of involvement in the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Zacarias Moussaoui reportedly visited Malaysia last year.

Malaysian officials told the Bernama national news agency that they had been watching the 13 detainees for months, and were investigating whether they had contact with any of the hijackers who carried out the September attacks.

Two of the men believed to have hijacked the jetliner that crashed into the Pentagon reportedly visited Malaysia last year. However, the officials said they did not believe the al-Qaida group was present in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government in the past six months has detained a score of individuals on charges of involvement with the Militant Group of Malaysia, whose members reportedly received training in Afghanistan. These include the son of the spiritual leader of the country's leading opposition party, the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party.

The detentions led critics to accuse the government of stifling political opposition. But Kuala Lumpur says the arrests are aimed at countering terrorism, which it calls a growing threat in the region.