Anxious Singapore trumpets its anti-terror efforts

January 26, 2002

Fateha group members resign over leader's anti-US stance
A stormy ride for Singapore
INGAPORE trumpeted its contribution to global anti-terror efforts on Saturday (Jan 26) saying the recent arrest of an Islamic militant leader in the Philippines was a result of the city state's intelligence work.

Philippine police detained Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi in Manila on January 15 just as he was about to leave for Bangkok. His arrest led to the seizure of a large amount of explosives that authorities believe was linked to a bomb plot in Singapore.

"Arising from information that the (Singapore) Internal Security Department shared, the Philippines arrested Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi," the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Saturday.

"The arrest is an example of the close cooperation between the Internal Security Department and its foreign counterparts in the fight against international terrorism."

The tiny prosperous city state has long been regarded as a safe haven in turbulent Southeast Asia, but its calm was shaken earlier this month when Singapore announced it had detained 15 suspected Muslim militants. It later released two.

Government and religious leaders have gone to great lengths to preach tolerance in the multi-racial state since the arrests.

And as sensitivities ran high, the leader of a small Muslim rights group, who claimed the government had prompted local terror plots by aligning itself with the United States and Israel, yielded to public pressure and resigned on Friday.

State and Muslim leaders had criticised Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, leader of the group Fateha, for his comments and the government ordered Fateha to register its portal as a political Web site as part of pressure on the group.

Zulfikar resigned on Friday evening along with seven other members. "There's a lot of these personal attacks on me. It's best for me to leave the group now so that it doesn't implicate other people," Zulfikar told Reuters on Saturday.


Meanwhile, authorities said the Singapore detainees, suspected of plotting to blow up US targets, had identified Al-Ghozi as "Mike" and described him as a bomb maker and trainer belonging to the Philippine Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Al-Ghozi had conducted video surveillance of various embassies in Singapore in October last year, they said.

The 13 held in Singapore belong to a clandestine Islamic group, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has ties to similar organisations in Malaysia and Indonesia, the government says.

Indonesian authorities questioned this week a Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, a father of three named by Singapore as a possible leader of JI, which Southeast Asian nations say lies at the heart of regional militant terror networks.

Singapore said on Thursday a pair of matching video tapes, one discovered in Afghanistan and the other in Singapore, showed a clear link between the JI and the al Qaeda group blamed by Washington for the attacks on the United States on September 11.