Mas Selamat bin Kastari (b. 23 January 1961, Kendal, Java, Indonesia– ) was Singapore’s most-wanted terrorist after he escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC) on 27 February 2008. He was recaptured in a small village in Johor, Malaysia, on 1 April 2009. Authorities claim that Mas Selamat headed the Singapore branch of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist network, and was the mastermind behind various terrorist plots in Singapore.1
Mas Selamat was born in a province in Central Java, Indonesia. His family migrated to Singapore when he was young and they lived in Kaki Bukit. In the early 1980s, he moved to Bedok Reservoir. He subsequently married and had five children with his wife.2
Mas Selamat’s involvement with JI first began in 1990 after he heard Indonesian cleric Abu Jibril preach. He subsequently joined Darul Islam, the precursor of JI before becoming a member of the Singapore JI cell in 1992. Over the next five years, he visited Afghanistan twice, where he met JI chief Hambali.
Following a series of 13 arrests in December 2001 when the Singapore authorities tried to break up the local JI network, Mas Selamat and his family fled Singapore and moved around Malaysia, southern Thailand and Indonesia. He was alleged to have plotted to hijack a plane to crash into Changi Airport and detonate a number of bomb-laden trucks simultaneously in Singapore.
Mas Selamat was first arrested by Indonesian authorities in February 2003 in Tanjung Pinang, Bintan. During interrogations, he confessed that he had planned to overthrow the Singapore government. He was subsequently jailed for 18 months in Bintan for carrying false identification. He tried to escape detention twice. In a botched attempt in 2003, he jumped from a high floor and broke his left leg, resulting in a permanent limp. He was not deported to Singapore upon his release due to the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries.4
He was then re-arrested in East Java, Indonesia, on 20 January 2006 on the same charge of carrying false identification papers. The Indonesian authorities deported him to Singapore where he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows detentions without trial.5
Escape from Singapore
Mas Selamat escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre (WRDC) on 27 February 2008, sparking Singapore’s biggest and most expensive manhunt. A cash reward of S$1 million for information leading to his arrest was even offered by private citizens.6
He escaped during one of his weekly visits with his wife and children. As prisoners were allowed to wear civilian clothes during the visits, he had requested for privacy as he changed his clothes. He then left the water running in the washroom and hung a pair of pants over a ledge above the cubicle door to mislead the guards. He squeezed through a bathroom window, climbed down a drainpipe, climbed over a fence and escaped.7
He reached Woodlands on the night of the fourth day after his escape from the WRDC and swam more than 1.1 km across the Tebrau Strait to Johor Bahru using an improvised flotation device. Once in Johor, he met Abdul Matin Anol Rahmat and Johar Hasan. He was staying with the latter when he was re-arrested.8
Arrest in Malaysia
The Malaysian Special Branch arrested Mas Selamat on 1 April 2009 in Kampong Tawakal, a small village in Johor, together with his landlord, Johar, and his landlord’s wife. He is currently detained under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial for two years. Malaysian news agency Bernama claims that he is held at the Kamunting detention centre in Malaysia’s north with other ISA detainees.9
Tan Yee Lin
1. “Mas Selamat Kastari,” Straits Times, 2 February 2006, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Nur Dianah Suhaimi, “Kampung Boy, Bus Mechanic, Bomb Maker, Wanted Terrorist,” Straits Times, 2 March 2008, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Suhaimi, “Kampung Boy.”
4. Devi Asmarani, “A Life on the Run,” Straits Times, 16 March 2008, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “Terror Suspect Nabbed in Indonesia,” Business Times, 7 February 2006, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “$1 Million Reward for Leads on Mas Selamat,” New Paper, 22 July 2008, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Confluence of Factors Made Escape Possible,” Straits Times, 22 April 2008, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “He Hid in S’pore for Four Days,” Today, 14 May 2009, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Leong Wee Keat, “His Hideout Revealed,” Today, 12 May 2009, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
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