Please click here to view the full report.
By Dr. Matthew Levitt Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy First published by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Last week, Thai police arrested Atris Hussein, a suspected Hizballah operative, at the Bangkok airport, while another suspect escaped. Elsewhere in the capital, authorities seized a large cache of chemical explosives composed of ammonium nitrate and urea fertilizer, leading the United States and Israel to issue emergency alerts warning their citizens in the country of a possible imminent terrorist attack. According to local authorities, initial intelligence indicated an attack would occur over the weekend in Thailand, yet they now believe some or all of the explosives were intended to be shipped out of the country. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok, meanwhile, continues to warn U.S. citizens of a "real and credible" threat of a terrorist attack in the capital.
Although the news may read like a made-for-Hollywood plotline, the fact that Hizballah is active in Southeast Asia should come as no surprise. Indeed, the case strongly parallels several previous Hizballah plots in Thailand and elsewhere in the region. Hussein is not the first Hizballah operative to be arrested at a Southwest Asian airport, nor is he the first to be tied to weapons caches and terrorist operations in Thailand. Hizballah operations in the country date back to at least April 1988, when group members hijacked a Kuwaiti airliner departing from Bangkok. And the discovery of chemical explosives is reminiscent of the group's use of a bomb built with the same chemicals in a 1994 plot targeting the Israeli embassy in Bangkok.