Hambali planned action in Thailand before arrest: Thai PM
BANGKOK, Aug 16 (AFP) - Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Saturday that alleged terrorist mastermind Hambali, who was arrested in Thailand this week, had been planning some kind of action while in the kingdom.
"We arrested two or three suspects before we managed to arrest Hambali... Intelligence gathering clearly showed that they were planning to do something which I do not want to elaborate on," Thaksin said in a weekly radio address.
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Washington announced Thursday that Hambali, Asia's most wanted man and the alleged architect of last October's Bali bombings, had been captured and was in US custody.
Thaksin said Hambali was undergoing interrogation by allied countries in a secret location, while other officials confirmed he had been arrested Monday in the central city of Ayutthaya.
But the premier declined to confirm reports that Hambali had been planning an attack against October's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok which will bring together 21 leaders including US President George W. Bush.
"Originally I didn't want to speak in any detail because the interrogation is still going on and I want the results of the interrogation to lead to more arrests," he said.
The Nation newspaper reported that Hambali was arrested with explosives and weapons to be used in an attack during the APEC summit. Thai police have already arrested four Thai Muslims over an alleged APEC bomb plot.
A US official in Washington said Thursday that Hambali earlier this year received a "large sum of money for a major attack" from a leader of the international al-Qaeda terror network in Pakistan.
The official would not say whether that attack was thwarted or still in the planning stages, but he said Hambali would be interrogated as "part of ongoing efforts to neutralize the threat."
Thaksin also said authorities had been alerted to money transfers by Hambali during his stay in Thailand, but they were unable to investigate in detail due to a lack of legislation.
"We detected irregularities to do with money transferrals but we could not do anything as we lacked the laws to tackle them," he said.
Hambali's current location is being kept a closely guarded secret.
Thai Defence Minister Thamarak Issarangkun Na Ayutthaya said Friday that Hambali and his wife were extradited to Indonesia on Wednesday in an operation conducted "with the cooperation of many countries".
But Indonesian Police chief General Dai Bachtiar insisted Hambali was still "in another country" and had not yet been taken to Indonesia, where he is wanted for a string of attacks including the Bali blasts which killed 202 people.
Hambali, a top leader of regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), is also wanted in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
Thaksin did not elaborate on the identities of the suspects arrested here before Hambali, but the Nation newspaper reported Saturday that a senior JI operative named Zubair had tipped off authorities about his whereabouts.
The English-language daily cited Thai intelligence sources as saying that Zubair, a Malaysian, was arrested in southern Thailand in late July following a tip-off from a Singaporean security agency.
His arrest was reportedly kept quiet to avoid alerting Hambali, who authorities feared would flee Thailand if he found out.
The Nation said Zubair was instrumental in JI's financial dealings and a critical link between JI cells in Thailand and Cambodia.
Thaksin said earlier that Hambali was captured after a tip-off from local residents prompted authorities to check his passport.