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Suspected Terrorist Hambali Was Planning Attack on APEC Forum, Thai Officials Say


Thailand's prime minister says the terror mastermind arrested earlier this week was planning a major attack in Thailand. These and other details surrounding the arrest of the man known as Hambali are emerging, but Mr. Hambali's whereabouts are still unknown.

In his weekly radio address and in later remarks to reporters, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra indicated that Riduan Isammudin, also known as Hambali, was planning an attack on the upcoming summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

President Bush and the leaders of several Asian and Pacific Rim nations are due to attend the summit, which is scheduled for Bangkok in October.

Mr. Thaksin says the arrest of two or three suspects, combined with other intelligence gathering, revealed that the suspects were planning to commit acts of terror in Thailand.

He later said preliminary investigations had revealed that the Asia-Pacific summit was being targeted by Mr. Hambali and his comrades. Local newspapers reported Saturday that Mr. Hambali was arrested with explosives and weapons that had been collected for an attack during the summit.

Mr. Hambali, was arrested earlier this week in the central city of Ayutthaya, 50 kilometers from Bangkok. Authorities say he is a leading member of the regional terrorist organization known as Jemaah Islamiyah, and the chief operative in Southeast Asia for al-Qaida.

He is suspected of involvement in a series of terrorist attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia, including last October's bombing on the island of Bali that killed 202 people.

Mr. Thaksin said Mr. Hambali had been located with the help of irregular money transactions that were noticed by investigators. U.S. officials say Mr. Hambali had received a large sum of money from an al-Qaida leader in Pakistan to be used in a major attack.

The New York Times, however, said an intercepted telephone call, from Mr. Hambali to an Indonesian telephone number that was being monitored by security officers, was the key that led to the arrest.

Reports have said that U.S. agents were involved in the arrest in Thailand, and officials in Thailand and Indonesia have confirmed that Mr. Hambali was then handed over to the Americans.

His whereabouts now are a mystery, however. Thailand originally said U.S. agents had flown him to his native Indonesia, but Indonesia says he is not in that country.

Indonesian authorities said Saturday that they hope to be given permission to interrogate Mr. Hambali, wherever he is. He is also wanted by Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Australia.

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