Indonesian police interrogate suspected terrorist leader

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

TANJUNG PINANG, Indonesia -- Indonesian detectives interrogated a man accused of leading the Singapore cell of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group, an official said Tuesday.

Indonesian authorities arrested Mas Selamat Kastari on Bintan Island on Sunday night.

Singapore has been hunting Kastari for more than a year.

The group is accused of carrying out last year's bombings on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali in which about 200 people were killed.

"He has acknowledged that he is Mas Kastari, but that is all we have so far," said Lt. Col. Johannes Kwartanto, chief of police in this administrative center of Bintan island.

Kastari, a 41-year old mechanic born in Singapore, allegedly hatched a failed plot to fly a hijacked plane into Singapore's main airport and helped al-Qaida plan possible attacks on U.S. military personnel and their families in Singapore.

Kwartanto said that officers had arrested him on a bus, shortly after Kastari and his family arrived on Bintan from Sumatra island.

A senior police officer who took part in the investigation said on condition of anonymity that Kastari had met "several times" with Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian cleric believed to be the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah. Bashir is now in custody in Jakarta.

On Tuesday, Singapore's Straits Times daily said that Indonesia would not hand Kastari over to Singapore because the two countries did not have an extradition treaty.

Kastari has been charged with forging documents, which he used to travel between Indonesia and Singapore last month.

Kastari is alleged to have led the Singapore branch of Jemaah Islamiyah since 1999. He is accused of planning retaliatory attacks against the Singapore government after it arrested 31 suspected members of the group, the government has said.

Jemaah Islamiyah, which has links to al-Qaida, is seeking to establish a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia covering Malaysia, the southern Philippines and Indonesia.

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