Thailand used as base for terror acts’


Latest arrest means Thai authorities have got them all.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday that suspected terrorist mastermind Hambali was plotting new attacks when he was arrested last week, with the Apec summit being a possible target.

‘He was not just using Thailand as a transit point. He was using Thailand as a base for committing acts of terror,’ Mr Thaksin told reporters. ‘Investigations reveal some connection to Apec, but we still have to investigate further.’

He was referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held here in October. About 20 world leaders, including United States President George W. Bush, are expected to attend the meeting.

Hambali is thought to be the operations chief of the Jemaah Islamiah network and is wanted in several countries in the region in connection with several deadly bombings, including the attack last year in Bali which killed 202 people.

He was arrested early last week although his present whereabouts continues to be shrouded in mystery.

Mr Thaksin yesterday kept mum on where Hambali was, saying that revealing the terrorist suspect’s location may jeopardise investigations.

But in his weekly radio address earlier in the day, he said the detection of ‘irregular money transactions’ helped expose the fugitive terror suspect, who had been on the run for the past two years.

This ‘resulted in the arrest of the first case, the second, the third, and now we have got the fourth man – Hambali – who is regarded as the last one in our land,’ he said. ‘Finally we have got them all.’

Mr Thaksin did not reveal any more details of the arrests although it was reported yesterday that one of them, a Malaysian named Zubair Mohamad, provided police with information that led to Hambali’s arrest in Ayutthaya, a city 80km north of Bangkok.

Thai authorities say Hambali was flown out of the country on Wednesday and is now in US custody.

Speculation was rife yesterday as to where he might be. A Bangkok Post report said he was in the US but Indonesian intelligence officials said he was most likely transferred to the US Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

Key Al-Qaeda operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Omar Al-Farouq are being detained in Bagram.

There is talk too that he had been sent to Guam or the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Wherever he may be, Indonesia wants to get hold of him for trial in Bali.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said yesterday that he did not expect the Bush administration to object to allowing Indonesia access to Hambali, but noted that the two countries did not have any extradition treaty.

‘It is not ruled out under legal cooperation and cooperation on combating terrorism that in the end, Hambali can be handed over to Indonesia,’ he said.

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