Mas Selamat Kestari planned his prison break for a month in 2008

Malaysia's counter-terrorism head said it was "one of the most interesting arrests" they had made.

Chan Cheow Pong | March 25, 2017 @ 08:07 pm

Notorious terrorist Mas Selamat Kestari who escaped from a high security prison in Singapore in February 2008, had started preparing for his escape a month ahead by exercising and finding out information on roads outside the prison from his wife during family visits.

The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb maker who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), had also deliberately stock up extra small packages of butter to be used as food and obtained extra clothing from his wife.

This was the extent to which the most wanted fugitive in Singapore at one point had planned for his prison break, as revealed by Malaysia’s Deputy Police Commissioner Datuk Ayob Khan said in an interview with The Star, marking the 210th Police Day celebrations.

The Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division (E8) head also revealed more details about the events leading up to Mas Selamat’s arrest:

“It was one of the most interesting arrests we made of a JI militant.

“He escaped from a detention centre in Singapore on Feb 27, 2008 but was later caught in Johor Baru on April 1, 2009. We detained three former JI members – Matin Anon Rahmat, Johar Hassan and Nurrohman – and their interrogation led us to a house in Johor Baru, where we discovered Mas Selamat hiding.”

The Mas Selamat case still remains one of the most high profile arrests for E8.

According to Ayob, Mas Selamat had swum across the Tebrau Straits to Stulang Laut in Johor Baru on the night of March 2, 2008.

“He kept himself afloat with the aid of empty mineral water bottles and landed at Stulang Laut at about 5.30am on March 3, 2008.

After day break, he walked about 10km towards Pelangi Plaza before boarding a bus to the house of Matin in Ulu Tiram.

He later moved to another hideout at Kampung Tawakal, Skudai, belonging to Johar.

Mas Selamat stayed there for about a year before we finally caught up with him.”

Ayob also said that the trio of Mas Selamat, Matin and Johar had several terror plots in mind, including kidnapping Singaporean Chinese in Johor as hostages in return for the release of all JI detainees in Singapore.

Mas Selamat was handed over to the Singapore authorities after his arrest in Malaysia.

Subsequent investigations uncovered that he had received assistance from his extended family members.

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had harsh words to say, when he described the audacious escape of Mas Selamat through the prison’s toilet ventilation window and perimeter fence, as a “very severe lesson in complacency” which showed that Singapore is not infallible.

Top photo from MHA

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About Chan Cheow Pong

It took Cheow Pong two decades to recover from the trauma of memorising General Paper essays before he was ready to be an English writer. In between affliction and recovery, he thoroughly enjoyed his time writing in Chinese and doing Chinese translations.

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