Bangkok terror suspect: 'Mossad framed me'

Atris Hussein says bomb-making chemicals found in his store "placed by Israeli secret service."

By TIBOR KRAUSZ, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
January 20, 2012 14:27
3 minute read.
Atris Hussein

Atris Hussein 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang)

 
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BANGKOK – The Swedish-Lebanese man accused of planning terror attacks in the Thai capital told a Swedish newspaper on Thursday he had been framed by the Mossad.

In an interview with Aftonbladet, Atris Hussein, who is being held on terrorism charges at the Bangkok Remand Prison, insisted he was “100 percent not guilty.”

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The 47-year-old was arrested on January 16 after US and Israeli officials tipped off the Thai government about a planned attack by Hezbollah operatives on Thai soil.

Last Monday, at a shop rented by Hussein in a suburb of Bangkok, Thai authorities seized a large cache of chemicals that could be used to make powerful explosives.

“Much of the material police found in my store had been placed there, probably by the Israeli secret service Mossad,” Hussein told two Swedish journalists who visited him in prison.

“This is a conspiracy.”

Hussein insisted he ran a small legitimate export business out of Bangkok selling ice packs and electric fans to customers in Azerbaijan and Liberia.

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Dennis Thern, one of the two Swedes present at the interview, told The Jerusalem Post that Hussein suggested he had been framed by Israelis because in Sweden he had voted for the left-wing Social Democratic Workers Party, which “made me look suspicious in Mossad’s eyes.” Hussein also denied being a Hezbollah operative.

“One evening I was taken out of prison and was placed in a car that drove off with me to a house somewhere,” he told the Swedish journalists.

“I was interrogated by three men who apparently came from the Mossad. I have their first names. They claimed that I lied about various things.”

The Israeli Embassy in Bangkok declined to comment.

Hussein moved to Sweden in 1989 and became a citizen in 1994. He worked as a barber in Gothenburg for a decade before he moved back to his native Lebanon in 2005.

He told Aftonbladet his Swedish passport had allowed him to travel freely in and out of Thailand repeatedly since 2008.

Thai authorities said Hussein had admitted to being part of a terrorist cell planning attacks either in Thailand or an unnamed third country and that the plans had been called off after his arrest. He remains in jail on charges of possessing illegal substances and faces five years in a Thai prison if convicted.

Thai authorities are looking for possible accomplices.

In December, Israeli authorities warned Thailand that Hezbollah was planning attacks in Bangkok tourist hubs popular with Americans and Israelis. A possible target included Chabad House on Khao San Road, a backpacker haven packed with young Israeli travelers.

Security around the Chabad House has been tightened.

“Since the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we’ve had 24-hour security all year round,” said Rabbi Nehemiah Wilhelm, originally from Jerusalem, who runs the four-story establishment.

“But Thai police have upgraded our security arrangements by posting more officers around Chabad House and checking cars.”

Israeli travelers, Wilhelm added, have taken news of the alleged terror plot in stride. “Israelis are never entirely immune to the threat of terror attacks anywhere and there hasn’t been any panic,” he said.

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