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Singapore details terrorist plots

Friday, January 11, 2002

Associated Press WriterSINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore released details Friday of an elaborate plot by al-Qaida linked terrorists to blow up Western embassies, U.S. naval vessels, a shuttle bus carrying American soldiers and the offices of U.S. companies.

The government also released a videotape it said had been found in Afghanistan featuring a man now in custody here narrating as the camera zooms in on alleged terror targets in Singapore.

"These are the same type of boxes which we intend to use," says the suspect, Hashim bin Abas, as video footage shows boxes resting on top of bicycles -- an apparent reference to plans to hide explosives.

"It will not be suspicious to have a motorcycle or bicycle there," says bin Abas in the snowy video shown Friday evening on Singapore television.

The latest revelations came just days after the government announced the December arrests of 15 suspected Islamic militants who it said had been plotting to attack Western interests in the Southeast Asian city-state.

The arrests and alleged plots have shocked Singapore, a small island of 4 million people which has one of the world's most efficient intelligence-gathering networks and which has long been an oasis of stability and prosperity in an otherwise chaotic region.

Thirteen of the suspects are still in custody and two have been freed, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said in a news release Friday. It said the 13 can remain in custody for two years under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention without trial for anyone deemed a national security threat.

Those detained are believed to also have been planning attacks on the British High Commission, the Israeli Embassy and the Australian High Commission, the ministry said.

The government said the 13 are members of a clandestine organization called Jamaah Islamiyah, or Islamic Group, and that eight of them had received training in Afghanistan from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

"The group appeared to be dominated by foreign elements and subscribed to these elements' extremist ideology and its anti-American, anti-West agenda," the statement said.

It said the suspects had planned to blow up a shuttle bus ferrying U.S. military personnel between a naval base and a subway station -- in addition to U.S. naval vessels in the waters northeast of Singapore.

Videotapes and some Arabic-language handwritten notes, which detailed plans to attack Americans in Singapore, were found in the rubble of an al-Qaida leader's house in Afghanistan, the ministry said.

Also found "was a list of over 200 U.S. companies in Singapore," it said.

"Three of them were highlighted as potential targets apparently because the office-bearers were regarded as fairly prominent members of the American community in Singapore," the statement added.

The U.S. Embassy in Singapore on Friday said the United States was "appreciative" of Singapore's anti-terrorism efforts and "remains confident in the ability of the government of Singapore to protect American citizens and institutions here."

"Singapore remains a safe place to live or do business," the U.S statement said.

One of the suspects -- a technician for government-linked Singapore Technologies Aerospace -- photographed Singapore's Paya Lebar Airbase and U.S. military aircraft there "as a potential target for terrorist attack," the government said.

About 17,000 Americans live in Singapore. Almost 6,000 multinational companies -- many of them American -- have regional offices in the affluent city-state and American companies are among the biggest employers in Singapore.

The 15 were arrested in December after authorities found bomb-making information along with photographs and video footage of the U.S. Embassy and other buildings in the suspects' homes.

The government said the suspects also had al-Qaida-linked materials, fake passports and forged immigration stamps. The U.S. Navy has a logistics unit in Singapore and warships going to and from Afghanistan have been resupplied in the city-state. Last year, Singapore opened a new naval facility specially designed to accommodate U.S. aircraft carriers.

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