The Thai police's capture of a Lebanese-Swedish Hizballah suspect, who was charged Monday, Jan. 16, thwarted a terrorist attack on Bet Habad in Bangkok, involving the taking of hostages and blowing up the building. It was to have followed the same lines as al Qaeda's 2008 assault on the Mumbai Habad center which killed 8 Israelis and Jews – only more ambitious. The Habad Bangkok is much larger: its hostel has rooms for dozens of lodgers. A second team was to have hit the Khao San Road restaurants popular with Israelis and Americans in a coordinated operation.
This is the first time Western and Israeli agencies have found evidence of the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah using and training operatives in the same terrorist methods as al Qaeda.
debkafile's counter-terror sources note that two or possibly three Hizballah cells were to have gone into coordinated action on the same date this month. The only suspect in Thai custody is Atris Hussein, 47, who was arrested as soon as he landed at Bangkok international airport Thursday, Jan. 12.
He first denied association with Hizballah, claiming he was on holiday. Sunday, he broke down under interrogation and admitted he was on a mission to attack Jewish, Israeli and American sites and that explosive materials had been prepared in advance by another Hizballah team, which had pinpointed the targets and was to have briefed the perpetrators.
Thai authorities believe that each team was made up of two or three members, all carrying European or Persian Gulf emirate passports.
Monday, Jan 16, Hussein led the police to an address he received from his Hizballah controllers in Lebanon in the Samut Sakorn province on Bangkok’s outskirts. There they found a cache of 4,000 kilograms of urea fertilizer and 10 gallons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound used in explosives. The materials had not been assembled, indicating the plot was still not quite ready to go.
The Thai police were waiting for the suspect at the airport after receiving alerts from US and Israeli counter-terrorist agencies, which had advance information about the coming attack. According to debkafile's intelligence sources, the tip-off originated with Lebanese nationals living in Bangkok who had been approached for assistance. Those informants, who did not trust the local authorities to act, went straight to Western and Israeli contacts, who then published terror alerts to US and Israeli travelers.
The terror alerts issued by the US embassy and Israel's Counter-Terror Bureau are still in force.
Sources familiar with the investigation report a major manhunt in progress for Hossein's confederates in Thailand, Europe and the Middle East. Some of those sources suspect the advance team members who prepared the explosives materials managed to escape, either by plane from Bangkok or by crossing into Laos and catching a flight there, although others believe they are still hiding out in Thailand waiting for another chance to strike.