Jakarta police confirm entry of terror suspect
Jemaah Islamiah man entered Indonesia in April but police say S’pore did not give prior notice that he was being sought.
Indonesian police yesterday confirmed that suspected terrorist leader Mas Selamat Kastari entered the country through Medan in April but said they had no prior notice from Singapore that he was being sought.
National police spokesman Saleh Saaf said immigration records showed that he was on the passenger manifest of an incoming flight.
‘Our preliminary investigations show that a man by the name of Selamat Kastari came into Medan from Singapore,’ he told
The Straits Times. ‘But we do not know if he is the one that the Singapore Government wants.’
On Thursday, Singapore disclosed that about a dozen active members of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) – a network involved in terrorism-related activities – fled the Republic after other members were detained.
Those on the run included a five-man team led by Mas Selamat. They were believed to be in Indonesia. Singapore’s Internal Security Department assessed them as ‘the most dangerous elements in the Singapore JI group’.
Brigadier-General Saleh said police were waiting for Singapore to make a formal request for assistance to hunt them down. ‘All we know was what was published in The Straits Times that terrorists entered Indonesia,’ he said yesterday.
‘We haven’t received official information from the Singapore Government on this.’
Once the authorities here receive a name list, it would be circulated to the 27 regional police commands.
As it stands now, police here have no idea where Mas Selamat and his team are – or whether they are actually in the country.
Intelligence sources said the pattern in previous cases has been for extremist elements to enter via North Sumatra, Riau Islands, South Sulawesi or Kalimantan.
But they were constantly moving, making it difficult to track them. It was also easy for them to move across to Malaysia or the Philippines.
Despite a variety of reports which suggest that terror suspects have found refuge in Indonesia, the government has either dismissed the assertions or reacted with caution.
On news that the five were believed to be in Indonesia, reports quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Marti Natalegawa as saying: ‘We need concrete facts. There should be more details. We have thus far no reason to believe of the existence of an Al-Qaeda network in Indonesia.’
But observers said the government’s position – underpinned by fears of a Muslim backlash if it cracked down – was unlikely to change even if there were hard facts.
There has been little domestic pressure to act, and politicians with presidential ambitions were wary of unsettling the Muslim ground.
As University of Indonesia political analyst Arbi Sanit noted: ‘Singapore and others will face resistance even if they provide information backed by solid proof.
‘The government is likely to turn a blind eye to the problem until perhaps after the 2004 election. Too much is at stake politically for the elite to act now.’