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Americans In Thailand Warned Of Terror Attacks

Americans In Thailand Warned Of Terror Attacks


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The U.S. Embassy has advised Americans in Thailand to conduct anti-terrorist "emergency drills" at home and at work after police arrested three Muslims allegedly plotting to bomb embassies and tourist sites, and captured another man selling radioactive material which could create a "dirty bomb."

Thai police spent Saturday (June 21) hunting for a fourth Thai Muslim, Samarn Waekaji, in connection with the three arrested men who allegedly conspired to bomb the U.S., British, Australian, Israeli and Singaporean embassies, along with major tourist venues in Bangkok.

U.S. investigators meanwhile continued a separate investigation into the origin of radioactive cesium-137 which a Thai teacher was allegedly trying to sell to U.S. and Thai agents in a Bangkok hotel parking lot.

There was no indication that the two cases were linked, and it appeared that U.S. and Thai officials were treating them as different investigations.

"If you have been reading the newspapers or watching TV over the last two weeks, you are probably wondering what exactly is going on in Thailand concerning terrorism and how it relates to Americans residing here," the U.S. Embassy said in "security update" to Americans residing in this Southeast Asian nation.

"You have most likely seen the story about the three men arrested in southern Thailand for plotting attacks against several embassies and soft targets in Thailand, and the more recent arrest involving a person selling material for possible use in a 'dirty bomb'," the U.S. advisory said.

The U.S. embassy assured expatriate Americans that recent international efforts have hampered terrorists, including "arrests in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, the United States, and many other places around the world."

It also praised Thai authorities for being "very active in pursuing matters related to terrorism" and expressed confidence in Thailand's ability to reduce the threat.

"While we will continue to work closely with the Thai authorities with regard to the safety of the American community, we urge you to remain proactive in your personal security practices," said the warning, issued on Friday (June 20).

"You should remain vigilant and prepared. Consider holding emergency drills for your family or business, and report suspicious persons and incidents to the police immediately."

Thailand's population is about 95 percent Buddhist, and its Muslim community lives mostly in the south along the border with Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Bangkok is a relatively modern, sprawling city of six million people with low-key security, despite the recent arrests. A police presence is visible at the gates of major embassies and at some tourist sites, but the atmosphere is usually relaxed.

Three Thai Muslims were arrested on June 10 in southern Thailand suspected of belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah, a pan-Asian militant group blamed for the October 12, 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia, which killed 202 people.

The trio was identified as Islamic religious teacher Maisuri Haji Abdulloh, his son Muyahi Haji Doloh, and drugstore owner Waemahadi Waedao.

"The plan was for high-powered explosives to be concealed in vehicles that would be parked at the targeted places, ready to explode," Interior Minister Wan Mohammad Matha told journalists shortly after the arrests.

The men denied the charges and their lawyer insisted they did not confess or possess any incriminating evidence.

Three days later in a separate case, U.S. Customs officials helped Thai police arrest a Thai man in Bangkok who allegedly offered to sell them a box containing cesium-137, which is used in medical and research technology but can be mixed with an explosive to create a small "dirty bomb" which spreads the radioactive material.

U.S. and Thai investigators who interrogated the suspect, Narong Penanam, were trying to find out if he was a middle-man of a gang who may have more cesium-137 stashed for sale.

*****

Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 25 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is http://www.geocities.com/glossograph/

-ENDS-


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