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Singapore PM says terrorists are studying maritime targets
Updated: 2005-06-03 21:35

Terrorists are studying maritime targets in Southeast Asia and Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida-linked terror group, remains ``highly dangerous,'' Singapore's prime minister said Friday.

``We know that terrorists have been studying maritime targets across the region,'' Lee Hsien Loong said at the opening of a regional defense ministers' conference. ``The recent spate of violent pirate attacks in the Malacca Strait shows up our vulnerabilities only too clearly, but a terrorist attack would be of an altogether different magnitude.''

He said Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for a spate of bombings across Southeast Asia, was ``morphing into a loose web'' of groups.

``While the JI may be weakened, it remains highly dangerous,'' he said.

The network is blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and the Jakarta Marriott suicide bombing a year later which killed 11. It is also blamed for last September's suicide attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, which left 10 dead.

Two of its purported top leaders _ Malaysians Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top _ were allegedly central players in all three attacks and remain fugitives in Indonesia. Lee said the reason the network was able to reinvigorate itself is because its top leaders remain at large.

``It is also tapping into like-minded groups in Indonesia to provide manpower and support for its terrorist activities,'' Lee said at a gathering of 500 delegates.

Washington and Singapore are concerned that militants could target the flow of 50,000 ships plying the Malacca Strait yearly or hijack a supertanker and use it as a giant floating bomb. The strait lies between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and carries half the world's oil and a third of its commerce.

Singapore has said it is open to involvement by other countries, including the United States, in helping to secure the waterway, where pirate attacks occur. Malaysia and Indonesia said they are able to handle their sectors with no outside assistance.

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