JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Eighteen Muslim extremists arrested recently had plotted to bomb Singapore's airport, defense ministry and water pipelines in the hope of igniting a holy war in Southeast Asia, Singapore authorities said Thursday.
Providing their first detailed account of the August arrests, officials said they have uncovered seven highly organized secret cells, or "fiahs," that began conducting surveillance of potential bombing targets in the mid-1990s. Targets included a U.S. Naval vessel and a bar frequented by American military personnel.
The cells are part of Jemaah Islamiah, a group with strong roots in Indonesia that plotted last year to blow up the U.S. embassy and six other high-profile targets in Singapore using suicide truck bombs, authorities said. The group is linked to al-Qaida, and several of its members trained in camps in Afghanistan.
Release of new details on the suspected cells and their targets illustrates that the terrorist group had embedded itself more deeply into Singaporean society than previously thought.
Singapore authorities said their investigation uncovered evidence that Jemaah Islamiah is at the center of a regional alliance of extremist groups formed in 1999 to plan terrorist attacks. Their goal is to create an Islamic state that would include Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and southern parts of the Philippines and Thailand.
Singapore, operating under its strict Internal Security Act, has ordered 31 Muslim men held indefinitely without trial for their role in the plots, including 18 of 21 suspects arrested last month. The three others were released. Thirteen men were detained in December in connection with the plot against the U.S. embassy and other targets.
Singapore's announcement came as the anti-terrorism campaign in Southeast Asia reached new heights. A series of arrests and disclosures in recent days has demonstrated the close cooperation among extremist Muslim groups in different countries. It also has revealed the wide range of targets they have plotted to attack.
U.S. officials have for months said that they regard Southeast Asia as the "second front" in their worldwide campaign against terrorism because of the large number of al-Qaida followers and an active network of cells.
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