Singapore releases two terror suspects

By SONIA KOLESNIKOV   |   Jan. 11, 2002 at 8:33 PM
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SINGAPORE, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Singapore government has released two of 15 suspected terrorists arrested last month, but the remaining 13 will remain in detention for two years under the country's Internal Security Act, government officials said in a statement Friday.

The men in detention are members of the clandestine organization Jemaah Islamiah, or JI. Eight went to Afghanistan to train in al Qaida camps, the statement said. The Internal Security Department began an investigation into the organization shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Several suspected terrorist cell members have fled the country, the statement said.

Before leaving for Afghanistan, members of the group did religious studies and physical training in Malaysia.

Singapore police arrested the men between Dec. 9 and 24. An exclusive United Press International report Dec. 28 quoted senior Pentagon and government officials as saying the Singapore government had raided a "terrorist nest" earlier in the month.

Singapore officials said the group was part of a larger organization called a "shura," which may be headed by Hambali Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, who is wanted by the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities. JI's terrorist activities began long before the Sept. 11 attacks, the government said.

According to the statement, the JI in Singapore is organized into various functional cells or "fiahs," which included cells for fund raising, religious work, security and operations.

Along with the leader of the JI in Singapore, those detained by authorities were members of the security unit or of one of the three operations cells identified by the ministry. The investigation has uncovered three operational "fiahs" in Singapore, which were allegedly targeting various American interests, the statement said.

The investigation so far has discovered two well-developed plans by the cell, the government said, including the targeting of a shuttle bus conveying what was expected to be U.S. personnel. Another plot allegedly involved a bomb attack against a U.S. vessel between Changi and Pulau Tekong northeast of Singapore.

The arrests were made after Singapore officials were told of videotape found in the rubble of an al Qaida leader's house in Afghanistan. The tape, given to Singapore Dec. 28, showed one of the suspects conducting a reconnaissance mission.

Also found was a list of more than 200 American companies in Singapore, the statement said. Three of them were highlighted as potential targets apparently because the office-holders were regarded as fairly prominent members of the American community in Singapore.

The second operations cell calls itself "Fiah Musa." Members of the cell took detailed photographs of Paya Lebar Airbase and the American aircraft there as a potential target for terrorist attack, and the government said these photographs were recovered from the possessions of one of those detained.

The ministry said two of the foreigners, one of Arab extraction calling himself "Sammy" and believed to be linked to the al Qaida organization; the other of Filipino or Indonesian extraction calling himself "Mike," was described as a trainer and bomb-maker with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front came to Singapore in October 2001.

Assisted by the cell members, they watched several sites, including the U.S. Embassy, the Australian High Commission, the British High Commission, the Israeli Embassy, commercial buildings where there are American companies and also the Ministry of Defense Complex at Bukit Gombak.

The third operations cell calls itself "Fiah Ismail" and was formed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Members conducted some preliminary surveillance and observation of a few targets including U.S. companies, but stopped when they got wind of the arrests.

The ministry said the investigations disclose the two people released were not members of JI, but they had donated funds they had collected to the MILF purportedly for its welfare organizations. They will be subject to strict restrictions about where they can travel and whom they meet for two years.

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