(Top photo: file picture of Mas Selamat leaving a Malaysian police station under heavy guard in 2003. )
SINGAPORE - A top terrorist suspect who was captured in Malaysia last year after escaping from a Singapore detention centre in 2008 has been handed back to the city-state and detained, officials said Friday.
Mas Selamat bin Kastari, the alleged head of the Singapore cell of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which has links to Al-Qaeda, was captured in April last year in Malaysia's southern state of Johor after more than a year on the run.
Singapore's home affairs ministry said Mas Selamat had been handed over on Friday and had been taken into custody.
"He has been arrested under Singapore's Internal Security Act, and is currently under investigation," the ministry said in a statement.
Mas Selamat was believed to have been hiding out in Malaysia since February 2008, when he escaped from a high-security detention centre in Singapore by squeezing through a toilet window and climbing over a fence.
He reportedly used an improvised flotation device to cross the narrow strait that separates Singapore from Johor state.
JI, a Southeast Asian terror outfit, is believed to have links to Al-Qaeda and is blamed for a string of attacks in the region, including the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed, many of them foreign tourists.
Singapore officials alleged he was part of a plot to hijack an airliner in Bangkok and crash it into Changi airport - one of Asia's busiest - in 2001 following the September 11 attacks that year in the United States.
He had fled Singapore in December 2001 after a security operation against Jemaah Islamiyah but was arrested in Indonesia in 2006 and handed back.
His escape triggered a sweeping review of security measures in Singapore.
Nine officers and guards were penalised for lapses that allowed Mas Selamat to escape. Two were sacked and three demoted, but calls for a high-level shake-up were ignored by the government.
Malaysian premier Najib Razak had said after Mas Selamat was recaptured that authorities needed to extract "more information" from him before he could be returned to Singapore.
"He is a threat to Malaysia's security, that is why he has been detained. Obviously he's a threat to Singapore and Malaysia," Najib was quoted as saying at the time.
Activists who are opposed to Malaysia's tough security laws, which allow for indefinite detention without trial, condemned Mas Selamat's deportation, and said he should now face criminal charges in Singapore.
"No one should be detained under detention without trial laws," E. Nalini, the Malaysian-based Abolish ISA Movement coordinator said.
"If he is a security threat, we ask the authorities to do a proper investigation and bring him to trial. There is a lot of secrecy surrounding his detention."
"We condemn the deportation. He was not given a trial when he was detained here and now the government is passing him back to Singapore, we don't know what is going to happen to him in Singapore," she added.
The ISA, which dates back to the British colonial era, when it was used against communist insurgents, has been used against suspected terrorists as well as government opponents.
Rights groups say there are currently 16 individuals being held under the ISA in Malaysia.
Singapore also has tough security measures with officials warning that the island-republic, a regional financial centre and host to thousands of multinational companies, is a prime target for terror attacks.