- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

BANGKOK — A Muslim terror suspect has confessed to plotting to bomb embassies in the Thai capital during an upcoming summit of Asian and Pacific Rim leaders, which President Bush is due to attend, Thailand’s prime minister said yesterday.

Arifin bin Ali, a leader of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, told Thai authorities that he “was planning to blow up embassies during the APEC meeting,” Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said during his weekly national radio broadcast.

Thai police disclosed this week that they had arrested Mr. Arifin last month. Interrogations of Mr. Arifin led police to arrest three Thai Muslims last week on suspicion they were planning to bomb diplomatic missions and tourist spots frequented by Westerners in Bangkok.

Mr. Thaksin’s statement was the first to tie the plan to the upcoming 18-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in October, which is also to be attended by China’s president and Japan’s prime minister as well as other national leaders.

More terrorism jitters arose Friday, when Thai police, tipped off by U.S. investigators, arrested a man who was selling them radioactive material that could be used to make “dirty bombs.”

However, no evidence was revealed linking the man to the Jemaah Islamiyah members or any other terrorist organization, Mr. Thaksin said.

The sting resulted in nearly 70 pounds of the radioactive substance cesium-137, which is for industrial use but could also be used in a dirty bomb, a device that spreads radioactivity over a wide area. The seller, Narong Penanam, had said the substance was uranium and sought $240,000 for it, Mr. Thaksin said.

Mr. Thaksin also said that there were no more members of the Jemaah Islamiyah in Thailand. The group, which has been linked to al Qaeda, is believed to have carried out deadly bombings last year of nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia.

“We have prevented the problem before it arose,” he said later, speaking to reporters. “We learned the news; we pursued them; we arrested them in time. There were no problems.”

Police are reported to have seized a Bangkok tourist map from the three Thai suspects with apparent targets circled on it — including the embassies of the United States, Britain, Israel, Australia and Singapore.

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