Singapore government detains 21 terror suspects

Al-Qaida tie, plot to bomb embassies are alleged

September 17, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The Singapore government said yesterday that it had arrested 21 people suspected of being terrorists, including some who were trained in al-Qaida camps and several who conducted reconnaissance of potential bombing targets in the island nation.

The arrests add to evidence of terrorist activity in Southeast Asia amid mounting concerns that the al-Qaida terrorist network is attempting to carry out new attacks against U.S. embassies, warships and other targets in the region.

Nineteen of the Singapore detainees are current or former members of Jemaah Islamiah, an organization linked to al-Qaida that planned seven suicide truck bombings of high-profile targets in Singapore late last year, the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs said.

"These latest arrests have seriously disrupted the JI network in Singapore," the ministry said in a four-paragraph statement. "There is no known imminent security threat from other JI elements in Singapore."

All the detainees are Singapore citizens, and some traveled to Afghanistan for al-Qaida training, the government said. The arrests took place last month but were not made public until yesterday. Names of the detainees were not released.

Two detainees were associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an extremist group in the southern Philippines, authorities said. Some trained at the organization's Camp Abu Bakar on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.

Singapore said the arrests resulted from the continuing investigation of last year's plot by Jemaah Islamiah to blow up seven targets, including the U.S., British, Australian and Israeli embassies.

Thirteen alleged members of the group, including some believed to be its leaders, were arrested last year and have been ordered incarcerated for at least two years. Under Singapore's Internal Security Act, they can be held indefinitely without trial.

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