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Two top JI members detained under ISA
Publication Date : 12-10-2012
Two senior members of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network who fled Singapore in 2001 have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
One of them, Husaini Ismail, was involved in a plot by JI leader Mas Selamat to crash a plane into Changi Airport in 2002. Husaini was arrested and jailed in Indonesia in June 2009 for breaking immigration laws, and deported to Singapore after being released in May this year.
The other, Abd Rahim Abdul Rahman, was arrested in Malaysia in February and deported.
Both men, who are Singaporeans, had undergone training in Afghanistan with the Al-Qaeda terrorist organisation in 1999 and 2000, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday. "They had also been actively involved in reconnoitring several potential local and foreign targets in Singapore for the purpose of a terrorist attack," it said.
Abd Rahim's brother Mohamed Rafee was also detained earlier for providing logistical support for the regional JI network.
News of the latest detentions came just as Indonesia was preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings on Oct 12, 2002. JI terrorists had set off twin blasts that killed 202 on the resort island, most of them tourists.
Yesterday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the terror attack had failed to destabilise the country.
He wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald: "The entire nation galvanised to defend freedom, democracy and tolerance. And internationally, Indonesia became a key player in the fight against global terrorism."
According to the MHA, Husaini and Abd Rahim had fled Singapore after the authorities cracked down on their terror network in December 2001.
No details were given about where they were hiding after they fled, but terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna believes the two men were able to evade arrest because "terrorist networks in the region are still intact, and they could seek refuge and harbour".
"In the region, terrorism is still growing and extremist ideologies are still spreading," he said.
With the latest arrests, there are now only "a few" members of the original Singapore JI network who are still at large, he added.
Professor Gunaratna, who heads the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, stressed the need for countries to continue to work together to fight terrorism.
MHA also gave updates on ISA detention and releases. It said three JI members were released on Restriction Orders - which limits their movements and activities - while 18 had their Restriction Orders lapse. This leaves 16 people detained under the ISA, one on Suspension Direction and 23 on Restriction Orders.
Commenting on the latest update, MP Hri Kumar Nair, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs, dismissed the idea that it was timed to coincide with the Bali bombing anniversary.
"I wouldn't read too much into it," he said. "These updates are important because the public should know the status of the individuals who have been arrested under the ISA. It is evident that the terrorism threat has not gone away, and although we have done well to keep it at bay, we must nevertheless remain vigilant."