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Two Lebanese in Thai custody over possible Hezbollah ties

NSC questions presence of watched men; fears attacks during Jewish fest

Two suspected foreign terrorists have been held for questioning regarding possible involvement with the Islamist Hezbollah militant group, the National Security Council confirmed yesterday.

However, "we have found no links with the group at this stage. Israel has mentioned this group but there is no conclusion yet that the men are members of the group," said Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the NSC. The suspects are still being questioned.

The militant group based in Lebanon has fought with Israel for years. Both sides have engaged in fighting and attacks that have resulted in the loss of lives.

A high-ranking source identified the two men as Lebanese-French Daud Farhat and Lebanese-Philippine Yousef Ayyad.

They were separately visited during the Songkran break by Immigration Police and taken from their homes in Sukhumvit.

Both have been on the Thai immigration watch list for being possible members of Hezbollah, the source said.

"Their presence in Thai territory near the Jewish Passover, which this year fell on April 13, aroused the Thai side's suspicions, so the Thai side decided to take them into custody for questioning after a fatal shooting in the US during Passover," the source said.

Jews celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. This year, Passover coincided with Thailand's Songkran.

The pair are being detained under immigration laws as their visas were already revoked, the source said, while declining to add whether they would be deported.

Referring to news reports that there was a third Lebanese, the source said Bailal Bahsoun, who is also on the watch list, did not enter the country.

An Israeli website, Stop910, which collects information on terrorist cells in East Asia, reported on Tuesday the presence and detention of the Lebanese in Thailand, but said there were three Lebanese exposed.

It said the suspects were reportedly scouting out Israeli and Western sites for attacks.

Previous cases

Thailand is a popular destination for Israeli tourists, particularly young people who tend to take time off to travel the world after completing their service in the Israel Defence Forces.

However, the Southeast Asian region has become problematic in terms of terrorism, given the ease with which local passports are forged and their common usage. There are also many migrants from Lebanon and Iran in the region who can be enlisted to aid in terror activities, the website said.

The recent case follows another one when Atris Hussein, allegedly a member of Hezbollah, was arrested on January 16, 2012, with a large amount of fertiliser stored in a shophouse in Samut Sakhon that he had rented.

He was sent to prison last September for two years and

eight months for possessing ex-plosive precursors without a permit.

There was an incident allegedly linked to terrorism on Valentine's Day in 2012 when hand-grenade explosions rocked Bangkok.

Two Iranian men, one of whom lost both legs to a grenade he threw at a police car chasing him, were arrested.

Iranian Ambassador Majid Bizmark in press interviews has dismissed as baseless any claims of a link involving Iran with that incident.


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