KUALA LUMPUR – The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb maker Mas Selamat Kestari, who was detained by the Singapore's Internal Security Act (ISA) but had escaped through a ventilation shaft in a toilet at Singapore Prison in February 2008, has again made news on 25 March.
The Star Online reported, in an interview to mark the 210th Malaysian Police Day celebrations last Saturday, Deputy Comm Datuk Ayob Khan said, “It was one of the most interesting arrests we made of a JI militant. He escaped from a detention centre in Singapore on Feb 27, 2008 but was later caught in Johor Baru on April 1, 2009.”
“We detained three former JI members – Matin Anon Rahmat, Johar Hassan and Nurrohman – and their interrogation led us to a house in Johor Baru, where we discovered Mas Selamat hiding,” the head of Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division reminisced.
Datuk Ayob Khan said that Mas Selamat had climbed through a ventilation shaft in a toilet at a prison in Singapore, hid under an expressway and swam across the Tebrau straits from Woodlands to Stulang Laut.
It seemed that notorious JI bomb maker had made a perfect prison break in February 2008, but not long after he crossed the Tebrau Straits, the Malaysia’s Counter Terrorism Division (E8) was hot on his heels.
He explained that during interrogation Mas Selamat revealed that he started preparing for his escape a month before his action by exercising and trying to solicit information on roads outside the Singapore Prison from his wife during family visits. He stocked up extra small packages of butter to be used as food and obtained extra clothing from his wife.
“On Feb 27, 2008, he escaped through the camp’s toilet ventilation window and scrambled through the perimeter fence,” Datuk Ayob Khan said.
Mas Selamat said that he hid under an overhead bridge along the Pan Island Expressway for five days before making his way towards Woodlands using a monsoon drain under cover of darkness.
He then swam across the Tebrau Straits to Stulang Laut in Johor Baru on the night of 2 March 2008.
“He kept himself afloat with the aid of empty mineral water bottles and landed at Stulang Laut at about 5.30am on March 3, 2008,” the Datuk revealed.
“After day break, he walked about 10km towards Pelangi Plaza before boarding a bus to the house of Matin in Ulu Tiram. He later moved to another hideout at Kampung Tawakal, Skudai, belonging to Johar.”
“Mas Selamat stayed there for about a year before we finally caught up with him,” said Datuk Ayob Khan.
The trio – Mas Selamat, Matin and Johar had several terror plots in mind, including kidnapping Singaporean Chinese in Johor as hostages in return for the release of all JI detainees in Singapore. Datuk Ayob Khan said, “If their request was not met, all the hostages were to be ‘slaughtered’ and video-taped for distribution to the international community.”
Mas Selamat still remains one of the most high profile arrests for the Malaysia’s Counter Terrorism Division, which had started out as a small sub-section within Special Branch in 1990, the Star Online wrote.
Singapore's differing account on where Mas Selamat hid after escape from detention centre
However, the account by the Counter Terrorism Division in Malaysia differs from what has been said by Ministers in Parliament about the escape of Mas Selamat.
In the Ministerial statement delivered by Minister For Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, it was said that on 29 Feb 2008, two days after his escape, Mas Selamat made his way to his brother Asmom’s home in Tampines to seek shelter and assistance from his grown-up niece, Nur Aini bte Asmom.
According to the minister, the family have all independently admitted to the fact that Mas Selamat had stayed overnight in their home between 29 Feb and 1 Mar 2008.
He then left the Tampines flat on the evening of 1 Mar 2008.
His brother was said to have given Mas Selamat S$100 and RM100 to facilitate his escape from Singapore to Malaysia. He also gave Mas Selamat some traditional medicine which the latter kept in his backpack.
As to how Mas Selamat made his way to Asmom’s flat and how he subsequently made his way to Malaysia, the Minister then stated that the account given by Mas Selamat is still subject to verification and therefore not be productive to set it out.