Thailand steps up security for Israelis after terror plot

One of two suspected Hezbollah members nabbed in Bangkok admits to planning bombing on Thai New Year, Passover

People take part in water battles in Bangkok as they celebrate Songkran, the festival that marks Thailand's New Year, on April 13, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Christophe Archambault)
People take part in water battles in Bangkok as they celebrate Songkran, the festival that marks Thailand's New Year, on April 13, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Christophe Archambault)

Israel has asked Thailand to step up security in the coming days along two Bangkok streets that are popular with backpackers, after allegations surfaced of a Lebanese terrorist plot against Israeli tourists in the area, the Bangkok Post reported Sunday.

The chief of the city’s Metropolitan Police Bureau, Kamronwit Thoopkrachang, was quoted as saying the Israeli embassy had sent a letter requesting extra protection for tourists. The police chief had assigned his deputy to oversee stepped up security measures for Israelis in Bangkok, the report said.

These included the deployment of extra police to the areas specified by the embassy, the report said.

The letter also thanked police for arresting the two suspects — Lebanese-French citizen Daud Farhat and Lebanese-Philippine citizen Yousef Ayyad — both of whom have been on the Thai immigration watchlist for possible Hezbollah ties.

The two were detained for questioning on Tuesday.

According to a police investigator who spoke to the Bangkok Post, Ayyad confessed that he and at least two others entered Thailand to carry out a bombing against Israeli tourists in Bangkok as well as other Israeli groups on Khao San Road over Passover and the Thai New Year — Songkran — which coincided this week.

Thai deputy police chief Worapong Chewpreecha was quoted by Thai news outlet MCOT as saying the two suspects in custody would be deported after interrogation. A third suspect remained at large.

Thai authorities said they were tipped off to the alleged plot by Israeli officials.

“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,” a source told Thailand’s The Nation earlier this week, referring to a shooting outside a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement home in Kansas on Sunday that left three people dead.

“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,” Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of Thailand’s National Security Council, told The Nation.

Israeli anti-terror website Stop910, which gathers information on terror cells in East Asia, reported Tuesday the presence and detention of the Lebanese in Thailand, but declared that three Lebanese citizens were exposed.

The site claimed the suspects were reportedly scouting out Israeli and Western sites for potential attacks.

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

Last week saw thousands of Israelis leave for points abroad, including Thailand, for the Passover holiday which coincided with Thailand’s New Year’s festivities.

In February 2012 an Iranian ring — apparently planning a terror attack on Israeli or Jewish targets — was exposed following a botched grenade attack.

A month earlier, Swedish-Lebanese citizen Atris Hussein, allegedly a member of Hezbollah, was arrested with a large amount of fertilizer stored in a house in Samut Sakhon that he had rented.

Last September, he was sent to prison for two years and eight months for possessing explosive precursors without a permit.

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