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Thailand Confirms Arrest, Extradition of Alleged al-Qaida Terrorist

Authorities in Thailand say they have arrested and extradited the alleged leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network in Southeast Asia. Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, is believed to have masterminded last year's attack on the Indonesian island of Bali and dozens of other bombings across the region.

Senior Thai officials say Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali, has been handed over to U.S. authorities and flown to Indonesia.

He is wanted by the Indonesian government, which suspects he organized the Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people last year. He also is wanted in connection with a bombing at a Jakarta hotel earlier this month, and a string of attacks on churches three years ago.

The Indonesian government, however, said Friday that it could not confirm Mr. Hambali's whereabouts.

The fugitive and a female companion were reportedly seized Tuesday in Ayuthaya, 80 kilometers north of Bangkok.

The Nation newspaper says Mr. Hambali entered Thailand recently under a false passport. It says he was planning terrorist attacks for October, when 21 leaders of the Pacific rim organization, APEC, are to meet in the Thai capital.

Terrorism experts say Mr. Hambali is the operations chief of the regional terrorism network, Jemaah Islamiyah, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., has been linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network, and is blamed for the Bali bombing.

Dozens of Islamic militants said to be J.I. members were detained around Southeast Asia in the past 18 months, after documents seized in Afghanistan revealed it was planning attacks in the region.

Terrorism experts say Mr. Hambali held meetings in Thailand to organize many of the attacks.

The Thai government has acknowledged the presence of terrorists in the country but says Thailand has not been a target of attacks.

However, the government this week issued two decrees giving itself greater powers to detain suspected terrorists and seize their financial assets. The decrees have raised protests from Thai civic organizations, legal experts and opposition politicians who say they unnecessarily bypass democratic debate.