Monday, January 16, 2012

Update: Thai Police Arrest Terror Suspect, Seize Explosives

A detained foreign terror suspect with alleged links to Hezbollah led Thai police in Bangkok earlier today (January 16) to a warehouse filled with materials commonly used to make bombs, as Thailand and the US argued over whether Bangkok was the target of a terror plot.

Specifically, police seized more than 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate at the warehouse in Samut Sakhon, on the western outskirts of Bangkok.

As background, the US Embassy had issued an "emergency message" Friday (January 13) warning of a possible terror threat against Americans in Bangkok. Israel did the same; a dozen other embassies have since urged their citizens to exercise caution.

COMMENT: Unfortunately, Thai officials were caught off-guard by the US announcement, and quickly revealed that they had detained a Swedish national of Lebanese origin with alleged links to Hezbollah and that intelligence indicated a plot could be carried out during January 13-15.

The defense minister said the news was not released earlier to avoid panic that could negatively impact on Thailand's tourism industry. The US Embassy stood by its warning and said it was still in effect today.

The official said that police also found shipping containers, leading them to believe the materials were destined for shipment elsewhere, though he declined to say where. The suspect has been charged Hussein with illegally possessing explosive materials and faces up to five years in prison.

In retrospect, it might have been better if the US had told the Thais that they were releasing their warning to US citizens, keeping in mind that there was no harm to Americans in the Thai capital from Friday to Monday, which suggests that they could have waited until the two sides had talked the threat through.

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