| 17.01,12. 02:59 PM |
Thailand Charges Hizbullah Suspect in Terror Probe
Thai authorities charged on Monday a Lebanese Hizbullah suspect with illegally possessing explosive materials. He faces up to five years in prison.
Atris Hussein was detained by police Thursday at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, trying to leave the country. Police are still looking for another Lebanese suspect.
Hussein led Thai police Monday to a warehouse filled with materials commonly used to make bombs.
Police confiscated more than 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate during the early morning raid of the warehouse in Samut Sakhon, on the western outskirts of Bangkok, according to police and media reports.
Hussein told police that he and other accomplices had rented the warehouse a year ago, according to a police official.
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 raid came after the U.S. Embassy issued an "emergency message" Friday warning of a possible terror threat against Americans in Bangkok, and Israel sent out a similar warning to its citizens. A dozen other embassies have since urged their citizens to exercise caution.
Thai authorities were caught off-guard by the U.S. announcement, hastily revealing they had detained a Swedish national of Lebanese origin with alleged links to Hizbullah on Thursday and that intelligence indicated a plot could be carried out between Jan. 13 and 15.
The defense minister said the news was not released earlier to avoid panic that could hurt Thailand's tourism industry.
Damage control continued Monday, with the prime minister calling for calm.
"I'd like to tell people not to panic. The situation is under control. There is no problem," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters, adding that security was increased and intelligence agencies were closely following the situation.
Details of the alleged plot remained hazy Monday due to a variety of conflicting accounts from Thai officials, some of whom said that Thailand appeared to have been a staging ground but not the target of any plot.
"I think Thailand is likely a transit point for other regions of the world," national police chief Gen. Prewpan Dhamapong told reporters after the raid. "It is unlikely that they would have staged terror attacks in Thailand."
But the U.S. Embassy said it stood by its warning of a possible attack in Bangkok.