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Singapore Terror Plot Alleged

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Suspected al-Qaida-linked militants arrested in Singapore were planning to blow up the U.S. Embassy and American business interests in the city-state, an official said Monday.

Recent arrests in Singapore and neighboring Malaysia have uncovered a suspected terrorist network in Southeast Asia linked to Osama bin Laden, raising concerns that the region's close ties to Washington could make it a target for terrorism.

Security around embassies and other sensitive areas in Singapore has been beefed up. Police on Monday set up a roadblock outside the Israeli Embassy. Armed Gurkhas — elite Nepalese fighters sometimes hired to guard sensitive areas in Singapore and other countries — stand watch at Singapore's American Club.

An estimated 17,000 Americans live in Singapore. About 6,000 multinational companies — many of them American — have regional offices in the wealthy, highly modernized Southeast Asian country of 4 million people.

Singapore American Chamber of Commerce managing director Nicholas de Boursac said the arrests were "very positive news for the business community ... being further evidence of Singapore's and Malaysia's vigilance on this issue."

Singapore and the United States also have close military relations. Singapore recently opened a new naval facility built specifically to accommodate U.S. aircraft carriers alongside shore. The island also is home to a U.S. Navy logistics unit.

Singapore Defense Minister Tony Tan on Sunday said 15 suspects arrested in Singapore in December had planned to blow up embassies and military installations, but he did not say which ones.

Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman Ong-Chew Peck Wan said on Monday that "the U.S. Embassy and U.S. commercial entities were the principal targets" in Singapore.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said on condition of anonymity that Singapore and the United States were "cooperating closely" and that the United States was confident Singapore could secure U.S. interests on the island.

The 15 suspects — 14 Singaporeans and one Malaysian — were arrested after authorities found detailed information on bomb construction along with photographs and video footage of targeted buildings in the suspects' homes and offices.

Al-Qaida-linked materials, falsified passports and forged immigration stamps were also found, said a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees police and internal security.

The ministry also said the suspects have links to militant groups in Malaysia and Indonesia and that some of them may have trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

Malaysian police have arrested 13 people since Dec. 9 on suspicion of being members of an extremist group with possible links to three men accused of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

The 15 — some of whom are members of Singapore's armed forces — were detained under Singapore's Internal Security Act, which allows peope to be held indefinitely without trial.

Two Singapore nongovernment groups, the Think Center and Fateha.com, on Monday urged the government to put the detained on trial.

By DEAN VISSER
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