Laju incident


Laju incident

The Laju Incident occurred on 31 January 1974 in Singapore, when four armed men attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom and later hijacked the ferryboat "Laju".

Overview

On 31 January 1974, four men armed with submachine guns and explosives attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom, a small island lying south of Singapore. The terrorists were two members of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Their goal was to disrupt the oil supply from Singapore to other countries, especially South Vietnam. On 1 February 1974, a PFLP spokesman made a statement in Beirut that the attack was a warning to all monopolistic oil companies on one hand and imperialism in general on the other - especially the perceived oppression of the Arab masses in the Middle East.

At the beginning of their operation, the terrorists' boat ran aground on a coral reef. They managed to reach the shore of Bukom after convincing an unsuspecting boatman to tow them towards the island. As they headed towards a gate of an oil tank farm, they fired shots at two passing vehicles although no one was injured. A sentry at a security post managed to escape and raise the alarm.

The terrorists were able to detonate 3 of the 12 explosives they were carrying, but they caused little damage. To escape, they then hijacked the ferryboat "Laju" at the Bukom jetty and held 5 crew members hostage. This led to a chase and "Laju" was quickly surrounded by marine police boats and navy gunboats at the Eastern Anchorage.

This was followed by a few days of intense negotiation, during which two hostages managed to escape by jumping overboard in the middle of the night. The terrorists later agreed to release the other crew members in exchange for a party of "guarantors" for their safe passage to the Middle East. This 12-men party consisted of 4 commandos from the Singapore Armed Forces and 8 other government officials. The party was led by the Director of Security and Intelligence Division at the Ministry of Defence, S R Nathan, who later became the President of Singapore and Mr Tay Seow Huah, the first Director of Security and Intelligence Division.

On the night of 7 February, the group was transferred from "Laju" to the Marine Police Headquarters and then to the airport. After they freed the remaining three hostages, the four terrorists left Singapore on 8 February at 1:25 am, accompanied by Nathan’s team on a flight to Kuwait.

References

* [http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/birth_of_saf/v06n01_history.html 1974 - The Laju Incident] - Ong Kian Seng, Ministry of Defence, 7 January 2002


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