JAKARTA – SINGAPOREAN terror suspect Mohammad Hassan Saynudin has admitted that he and fugitive Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader Mas Selamat Kastari had planned to hijack a plane in Bangkok and crash it into Changi Airport about six years ago.
‘We wanted to do it out of anger with Singapore for being an ally of the United States for what it did in Afghanistan,’ he told The Straits Times in an interview from a court lock-up yesterday.
But the plan was aborted after Thai security authorities came to know about it.
‘We abandoned the plan. We had no other plans to attack Singapore,’ he said.
This is the first time a JI member has admitted publicly to the plans to attack Changi Airport.
Mas Selamat was arrested in Indonesia and deported to Singapore in 2006, but escaped from custody last February.
Yesterday, Mohammad Hassan, 35, who goes by his alias Fajar Taslim, appeared in the South Jakarta District Court to face terrorism charges that could lead him to the gallows if he is convicted.
The terror suspect, who escaped Singapore’s security dragnet in 2001, however, remained unremorseful about his alleged involvement in terrorism.
‘What I was trying to do was to defend Islam and Muslims,’ he told The Straits Times.
The Singaporean and nine other men – all Indonesians – were nabbed in raids by Indonesian anti-terror squads in Palembang in June and July last year.
Yesterday, Fajar Taslim and two of them – Ali Masyhudi, 26, a farmer, and Wahyudi, 35, a caretaker – were charged with plotting attacks against foreigners and Christian priests in Indonesia.
A procedural snag delayed the filing of charges against the other seven suspects; that is now expected to take place next week.
All of them belong to a terrorist cell dubbed Jemaah Palembang, which had links to JI.
According to a White Paper published by the Singapore Government in 2003, the Singapore chapter of the regional terror network had since the mid-1990s eyed various potential targets in Singapore. They included the water pipes at the Causeway, Yishun MRT station and US naval installations.
According to the charges, the group also killed Christian teacher Dago Simamora for insulting Islam and preventing Muslim schoolgirls from wearing headscarves. The cell had also planned to bomb a backpacker cafe in the tourist town of Bukit Tinggi, West Sumatra, and shoot Chinese gold shop owners in Lampung, South Sumatra.
In the raids, police found 20 improvised bombs and a safe house in Palembang containing 18 computer hard drives.
Fajar Taslim said that JI’s bomb expert Azahari Husin – who was killed in a raid on his hideout in East Java in 2005 – had told him to buy the items described by police as accessories for bomb-making. He did not say when he bought them, however, nor what they were for.
‘I went to Sim Lim Tower in Singapore to buy many switches and other electronic parts,’ he said.
In the interview conducted while waiting to appear in court, Fajar Taslim said that his only regret was not being able to take care of his elderly parents and his four children from his first marriage in Singapore.
He had fled to Indonesia in 2001 after being warned that the authorities were after him, crossing into Johor and Thailand by road before crossing to Sumatra by sea from Penang. Accompanying him were his leader Mas Selamat and three others, but they split up in central Java later.
‘I survived seven years on the run. It’s like hijrah, or migration. Allah will give you sustenance,’ he added.
He said he met Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while undergoing military training in Afghanistan. He shrugged off queries about the bombs found in the raid, saying: ‘They are just fireworks or firecrackers, not explosives that were more powerful than the ones that hit Bali.’