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Suspected Thai Terrorists Confess to JI Membership, say Police - 2003-06-11

Police in Thailand say two of three suspected terrorists arrested in the southern part of the country have confessed to being members of the regional terrorism network, Jemaah Islamiyah. The arrests were reportedly based on information from an alleged leader of the organization who was deported recently from Thailand to Singapore.

Thai police say the owner of a religious school and his son have confessed to belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah. The organization is accused of masterminding a series of bombings during the past several years in the Philippines and Indonesia, including the explosion on the Indonesian island of Bali last October that killed 202 people.

Jemaah Islamiyah seeks to establish an Islamic state across Southeast Asia, and is said to have links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Thai police say the three men were arrested in Southern Thailand's Narathiwat Province.

They say the third suspect, a physician, has not admitted belonging to the group. The three Thai men were detained Tuesday based on information from a fourth individual, a Singaporean, who was arrested in Thailand last month and then deported to Singapore.

Singapore officials say the fourth man, John Wong Ah Hung, is a senior member of the terrorist organization, and was involved in a plot two years ago to bomb foreign embassies and public installations in Singapore. That plot was uncovered based on information found by American soldiers in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban government.

Singapore officials have arrested more than two dozen alleged members of Jemaah Islamiyah in connection with the plot. They say Mr. Hung fled the country in December 2001, first to Malaysia, and then to Thailand. At the time of his arrest last month, he was allegedly plotting to bomb Western embassies in Bangkok, and popular gathering places in the Thai tourism centers of Phuket and Pattaya.

The Thai government last month acknowledged that there were terrorists in the kingdom, but said they were not active.

Last month, police in Cambodia arrested two Thai teachers and the Egyptian director of a religious schoo, the first such arrests in Cambodia.

Separate trials are currently under way in Indonesia for one of the suspects in the Bali bombing, and for Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah.