Singapore says militant escaped without trousers

SINGAPORE Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:46am BST

Commuters walk past a poster of suspected Islamic militant Mas Selamat bin Kastari at an MRT train station in Singapore April 21, 2008. Singapore said on Monday that a suspected Islamic militant managed to escape from a detention centre two months ago mainly because of an unlocked window in the toilet -- and fled without his trousers. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Commuters walk past a poster of suspected Islamic militant Mas Selamat bin Kastari at an MRT train station in Singapore April 21, 2008. Singapore said on Monday that a suspected Islamic militant managed to escape from a detention centre two months ago mainly because of an unlocked window in the toilet -- and fled without his trousers.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore said on Monday that a suspected Islamic militant managed to escape from a detention centre two months ago mainly because of an unlocked window in the toilet -- and fled without his trousers.

Wong Kan Seng, Singapore's deputy prime minister, told parliament that Mas Selamat bin Kastari flipped his trousers above the cubicle door before escaping through a window.

"The guard had assumed that the urinal cubicle was a secure facility and that Mas Selamat could not escape from it. This assumption was wrong," he said.

Wong said Kastari had planned his escape "over time" and that the two guards who escorted him to the toilet had "failed in their duties".

"In my view, the security weakness of this window is the single most crucial factor which enabled Mas Selamat to escape," he added.

Wong said he was not sure how Kastari managed to get over the double perimeter fence at the centre, but said he could have "exploited a weakness" in a section of the fencing.

Kastari, the suspected leader of the Singapore cell of al Qaeda-linked militant network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), escaped in February from a detention centre where he was being held for allegedly plotting to crash a plane into Singapore's airport.

His escape sparked a massive manhunt on the tiny city-state that saw Nepali Gurkhas combing forests and a global security alert from Interpol. JI has been blamed for the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali that killed 202 people.

Wong said that the investigation into Kastari's escape concluded that he received no help from the centre's guards or staff and was not assisted by someone from the outside.

The escape was seen by some experts as highly embarrassing for Singapore, which prides itself on tight security. Wong said the authorities were considering building a new detention centre inside a prison.

Singapore, a strong U.S. ally and a major base for Western businesses, sees itself as a prime target in the region after it said it foiled JI plots in 2001 to attack its airport and other sites, including the U.S. embassy, the American Club and the Singapore American School.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee and Daryl Loo; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Alex Richardson)

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