KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19, 2015:
A legless terror suspect serving life imprisonment in Thailand and his accomplice currently imprisoned here fighting a Thai extradition application are to be quizzed over Monday’s bombings at Erawan Shrine in Bangkok.
Thai police will liaise with their Malaysian counterparts to seek information from a foreigner who was travelling on a passport bearing the name Masoud Sedaght Zadeh at the time of his arrest at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2012.
The said individual is sought by Thai authorities for his alleged involvement in the 2012 Valentine Day bombings in Bangkok which left five people injured.
Thai police are also expected to further interrogate suspected terrorists Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Khazaei, serving life and 15-year prison terms respectively in Thai prisons, following their conviction for the Valentine Day bombings.
Saedi lost both his legs when a grenade he hurled when making his getaway, ricocheted and landed at his feet. Accomplice Mohamad Khazaei was detained at Bangkok airport making his getaway.
The two foreigners, who were found travelling on Iranian passports, arrived in Bangkok on Feb 8, 2012 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Masoud was captured on Feb 15, 2012 at KLIA fleeing from Thailand, almost a week after he flew there from KLIA.
Two others sought — Leila Rohani and Norouzi Shayan Ali — escaped the police dragnet but remain on the Thai wanted list.
The Erawan Shrine blasts on Monday bring to three the bomb incidents reported along the popular tourist belt of the Thai capital this year.
After the blast at the shrine, another was reported at the Samphan pier.
Last February, two explosive devises went off outside luxury shopping mall Siam Paragon, located less than 100 metres from the shrine but no injuries were reported.
While speculation was rife then over the possible individuals responsible, it wasn’t ruled out that the Siam Paragon attack was a move to instil fear among tourists and disrupt Thailand’s tourism economy.
“The latest incident reaffirms suspicions that a terror cell is active in the region, constantly shifting between neighbouring countries,” an intelligence source disclosed.
They may be targeting the tourism industry.
With visuals of a yellow T-shirt clad individual being shared as a prime suspect in Monday’s shrine bombing, the source explained that interviews with detainees held in Thailand and Malaysia could shed light on the terror cells and their players.
“Besides Malaysia and Thailand, intelligence is also being sought from other neighbouring countries as these individuals are deemed cross-border criminals.”
Elaborating, the source said all these pointed to the existence of “safe houses”, disposable cellular phones and sleeper operatives, providing easy access to these suspected terrorists.
And, he added, these links could be in any country in the region, which would explain why they seem to be able to slip out swiftly, undetected.
“We are looking at terror suspects behind these attacks and have ruled out links with the separatist movement in southern Thailand.”
Thai authorities are viewing the recent attacks with concern as acts of terrorism are not rampant in Bangkok, despite the Thai capital having gained notoriety for various forms of smuggling and also purportedly being the document forgery capital of the world.
And these documents include passports of various countries purportedly being reproduced at high quality and sold at exorbitant prices to those who need them.
“It cannot be denied that there was a time Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers used Thailand and Malaysia as a base,” the source explained.
“Then there was Riduan Isamuddin, popularly known as Hambali among the intelligence community, arrested in Thailand in 2003 for his links to al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah.”
Yet the recent attacks, sporadic though they may seem, have raised eyebrows among Thai authorities.