Thailand: Hezbollah man arrested in terror scare

Thai police coordinating with Israeli officials amid concern Hezbollah seeking retribution for Mughniyeh assassination.

arrest  311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
arrest 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
Thai authorities have arrested a Lebanese suspect after the US embassy warned of a possible attack in Bangkok, Thailand's deputy prime minister said on Friday. He said that police had stepped up security and he was confident the situation would be contained.
"A Lebanese suspect from the Hezbollah group has been taken into custody by Thai officials and police are investigating further," Chalerm Yumbumrung told Reuters.
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"Following concern raised by the Israeli embassy about a possible attack by a group of Lebanese terrorists in Bangkok, Thai police officials had been coordinating with Israeli officials since before the New Year."
A Thai Defense Ministry source said Israeli intelligence had contacted Thai officials on Dec. 22 with information that two or three suspects could be planning an attack in Thailand. However, the individuals traveled to the south and left the country.
Israeli intelligence sources alerted Thai officials again on Jan. 8 of the danger of an attack around Jan. 13 to 15 in areas where there are often large concentrations of Western tourists, such as the Khao San Road, which is popular with young backpackers.
The arrest was made after the second Israeli warning, the source said, adding that Thai security officials were working closely with the United States and Israel.
Thai Defense Minister Yuthasak said the Israeli embassy and synagogues could also be targeted and that the attacks could come in the form of car bombs.
Earlier, the US embassy had warned of a possible attack by "foreign terrorists" and told its citizens to be careful in areas of the capital frequented by tourists.
"We're warning all US citizens to take caution when visiting public areas where Western tourists are known to gather in Bangkok," said Walter Braunohler, spokesman at the embassy, but declined to give further details.
Israel is concerned Hezbollah will try to attack Israelis overseas in the coming weeks and ahead of the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh, attributed to the Mossad.
Hezbollah is believed to be actively seeking revenge for the assassination, and over the years there have been reports of a number of plots that were thwarted including an attempt to bomb the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan.
Israel recently asked Bulgaria, for example, to increase its security over Israeli tour groups in the capital city of Sofia. According to Sofia News Agency, a Hezbollah plot was recently uncovered by local security agencies, which warned Israel.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report