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Thursday, February 28, 2008
JI Leader Escapes
MORE than 100 SAF soldiers have joined the island-wide manhount for Singapore's most wanted man, Mas Selamat Kastari, the leader of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, who escaped from detention on Wednesday afternoon.
The SAF military police and guardsmen were brought in at about 6.30 am on Thursday to beef up the huge security blockcade around the wooded Malcolm Park, near the Singapore Chinese Girls' School and the vicinity.
They arrived in a convoy, which included a 5-tonner truck, several Land rovers, and quickly took up positions along with the hundreds of police, special operations and Gurkha forces that have been massing overnight in the area near the Whitley Road Detention Centre, where the JI militant fled at about 4.05 pm on Wednesday, sparking the biggest island-wide manhunt.
Residents leaving the areas near Goldhill Avenue, Barker Road and Malcolm Park, had their cars scrutinised and even had to open their boots on Thursday morning, causing a long traffic tailback along Dunean Road.
Students of SCGS, St Joseph Institution and Anglo Chinese School were advised by their principals and teachers to stay calm and vigilant and told of why they were surrounded by a strong police presence.
But this was not reassuring enough for many parents who decided to pull their children out of school for the day.
One mother, who would only give her name as Ms Tan, said she was taking her primary school daughter home because she felt 'uneasy' and preferred to have the girl at home.
In SCGS alone, more than half a dozen parents were seen leaving with their daughters when they were told of the manhunt for the runaway terror leader. All the schools in the vicinity were carefully combed by the police forces before the students turned up.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a brief statement on Wednesday night about the escaped leader. It said Mas Selamat walks with a limp, and was not believed to be armed.
The escaped terror leader, 47, took over as head of the JI network here in 1999, and later plotted to crash a hijacked plane into Changi Airport.
Officers seen checking houses, vehicles
Late on Wednesday night, officers with flashlights were seen going house to house along Malcolm Road, near St Joseph's Institution and behind Catholic Junior College, questioning residents and checking the leafy neighbourhood.
Elsewhere, officers stopped vehicles at roadblocks
questioned residents, and showed pictures of Mas Selamat.
The alert also went out to all border checkpoints, the Police Coast Guard, and even taxi companies, which broadcast a message to cabbies telling them to look out for the suspect.
Scores of plainclothes police officers also swarmed convenience stores and petrol stations, going through the leafy neighbourhood.
The lockdown, from late afternoon through the night, gave the whole area an almost surreal feel, with scores of police vehicles flashing blue and white lights lined up along the roads.
There were roadblocks at several areas, and grim-faced personnel, their neon green work vests glowing in the glare of lights, checked car boots and spoke urgently into walkie-talkies. The huge uniformed presence signalled immediately to residents of the affected areas that something big was going on.
Some residents worried
Mrs Jasmine Lim, 42, whose car was checked as she entered Goldhill Estate where she lives, said some residents were worried.
The mother of four said she called her two older children, aged 22 and 19, and told them to get home early. 'I have a security alarm that I normally don't activate so early, but tonight I will,' she said.
Senior accounts manager Terry Chia, 44, said police stopped him on his way home and showed him a picture of Mas Selamat.
He did not think anything of it at the time, but said he began to worry when he learnt that the escapee was a JI detainee.
The Indonesian-born JI leader escaped a dragnet that resulted in the detention of 13 JI members here in December 2001. The group had been planning to attack targets here.
While in hiding, Mas Selamat plotted to hijack a plane and crash it into Changi Airport. The plot was foiled. He was arrested in Indonesia twice, before being handed over to Singapore in February 2006, and has been detained under the Internal Security Act since March that year.
The news i recorded just now on TV
Please stay vigilant and keep an eye on lookout for him. Singaporeans are a bunch of people who are not wary of danger, cos they usually are very safe/ignorant. This will serve as a test to us. Let's hope he do no damage during his escape, or else, the Singapore Police Force will have alot of answering to do. To residents residing near the incident site, DON'T ASSUME you'll be safe cos of the number of police/soldiers/gurkhas surrounding the area, only stupid people will think that way. The man is in the DARK, you're in the LIGHT. All it needs it juz a bomb planted by the leader's followers to kill u. Feel safe?? HELL NO!!