PUTRAJAYA (Malaysia) - MALAYSIA allowed a Singaporean Islamic terror suspect to remain free for months so that he might lead authorities to other militants, an official said on Monday.
Mas Selamat Kastari was captured in Malaysia's southern state of Johor on April 1, more than a year after he escaped from a high-security prison in neighbouring Singapore in February 2008 by wriggling out a bathroom window.
Officials were aware that Mas Selamat had fled to Malaysia from 'the moment he came to our country', Malaysian Home Ministry Secretary General Mahmood Adam said in an interview with The Associated Press.
'We have a very good (police intelligence agency) here,' Mr Mahmood said. He did not say when exactly Mas Selamat came to Johor or whether Malaysia told Singapore about his whereabouts.
Mas Selamat, the alleged Singapore commander of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group, evaded a massive manhunt in the city-state and slipped into Malaysia by swimming across a narrow strip of sea that separates the two countries.
Police monitored Mas Selamat's movements instead of arresting him immediately because 'the most important (thing) sometimes is not the particular target, the most important (thing) sometimes is the networking', Mr Mahmood said.
Mas Selamat alone is not as valuable as who is behind him, Mr Mahmood said.
Mas Selamat lived in a Malaysian village of about 100 people, rarely going out or mixing with other residents, before being captured by Malaysian commandos.
Mr Mahmood declined to say whether authorities are on the verge of making further arrests, but stressed that Malaysia remained 'very safe and secure'.
Malaysia's government last week announced it would hold Mas Selamat for two years under a security law that allows for detention without trial. Prime Minister Najib Razak said officials want to obtain more information from Mas Selamat, calling him a 'threat to national security'. -- AP
[One conspiracy theory is that Mas Selamat was "allowed" to escape in order to track down his other contacts or network. If so, they should have revealed it by now. WKS and the ISD has taken alot of flak for this escape and Singapore's reputation has suffered. So it makes no sense to continue the charade.
So that's bunk.
On the revelation that M'sia allowed Mas Selamat to move about for months, may be true or it may be hyperbole. Certainly the arrest/recapture was well planned and could not have be executed without considerable intelligence gathering, or at least surveillance. But months? M'sian police would have two issues to worry about 1) keeping him under surveillance while not revealing police presence, and 2) tracking his movement if he does move about trying to resurrect his network.
Mas Selamat was hiding out in a village of 100 people. Unless one or more of these 100 people are police informants, any outsiders such as the police coming in or loitering about would have been noticed and commented on.
The M'sians are either better than expected, or the Home Ministry Sec Gen is as we say in singapore, talking cock.]