Muslim groups and volunteers join search for accused terrorist

( dpa ) - Muslim groups and volunteers joined the search Saturday for an accused terrorist as teams of police and Gurkhas combed Singapore's undergrowth and parks, but the whereabouts of the 47-year-old escapee were still unknown.

Members of mosque committees, staff from Malay-Muslim welfare organizations and others were distributing 10,000 "wanted" posters of Mas Selamat Kastari, who allegedly planned seven years ago to crash a plane into Singapore's Changi Airport.

Since his escape Wednesday from the Internal Security Department's Whitley Road centre, Interpol has issued an alert at the Singapore government's request and sent a photograph, fingerprints and other information to its 186 agencies worldwide.

The Paris-based international police watchdog said an "orange notice" had been sent out, identifying the fugitive as a "potential threat to the safety and security of the public at large around the world."

If Mas Selamat managed to evade the manhunt in Singapore, terrorism experts said he would likely head to Indonesia, where he has friends including Jemaah Islamiah (JI) operatives.

" Singapore and Malaysia are very hostile environments for him, but Indonesia is vast, and the JI remains a significant force there," said terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrrorism Research.

Posters originally in English were printed in Chinese, Malay and Tamil and distributed in Singapore urging people to call 999 if they spot Mas Selamat, who walks with a limp in his left leg.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said he is 1.6 metres tall and weighs 63 kilograms.

A prank caller was arrested for claiming to be the escapee. The 58-year-old man used a public phone to call the police emergency line, saying he was the former Singapore leader of JI, the top South- East Asian terrorism network with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization.

He threatened to attack "multiple locations," police said.

Thousands of police and soldiers have fanned out across the city-state in the search since Mas Selamat's escape, which was blamed on a "security lapse" while he was in the toilet. It was the first reported break-out from ISD detention, reserved for those considered threats to the state.

The Indonesian island of Batam has initiated a lockdown, The Straits Times said. Security at ports and other entry points has been tightened. Notices with photos of the fugitive were put up at the airport, bus interchanges, ferry terminals and elsewhere. Similar security checks were in place in the other Riau islands, the newspaper said.

The Indonesian-born Mas Selamat was accused by the ministry of having been involved in plans seven years ago to attack the US Embassy, the American Club and Singapore government buildings in retaliation for Singapore's arrest and detention of fellow JI members.

Mas Selamat left the city-state in December 2001 following the arrests of nearly 40 other suspected JI members.

He was arrested twice in Indonesia before being handed over to Singapore in February 2006 and has been held under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

JI has been blamed for a spate of terrorist attacks in South-East Asia that have killed more than 250 people since 2002.

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