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Terror suspect leads way to bomb materials

Police have charged a Swedish-Lebanese man with suspected links to the Hezbollah militant group with possession of prohibited substances after they found a huge cache of materials used for making explosives in Samut Sakhon's Muang district Monday.

The Swedish passport used to enter Thailand and carried by Mr Atris when he was arrested last week.

More than 200 police Monday raided a three-storey commercial building in the Mahachai area after Hussein Atris, a Lebanese man carrying a Swedish passport, was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Thursday evening.

National Police chief Priewpan Damapong said 4,380kg of urea-based fertiliser and 290 litres of ammonium nitrate were found on the second floor of the building.

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police discovered bomb-making material after the detention of a Lebanese man suspected of planning an attack, but the prime minister insisted Monday that everything was under control.

Authorities beefed up security in parts of the capital and other areas popular with tourists after the United States and Israel warned Friday of a possible terrorist attack. Police detained a Lebanese man reportedly carrying a Swedish passport. Officials said he had links with Hezbollah, a Shi'ite Islamist group in Lebanon backed by Syria and Iran that is on the U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations.

National police chief Priewpan Damapong told reporters the suspect, named as Atris Hussein, had given police an address where bomb-making material was being kept.

Officers discovered large amount of substances that could be used to make explosives in a building in Samut Sakhon, southwest of Bangkok, including 4,380 kg of urea and 10 gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate.

Priewpan said the suspect maintained that his group had not planned an attack in Thailand but intended to transport the substances to a third country. The officer declined to give the destination.

Asked about the discovery, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters: "I have been informed. I would like to ask people not to panic. We are currently in control of the situation."

Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha told reporters in the northern city of Chiang Mai Sunday that Thailand was not the target, although officials have also said that areas of Bangkok frequented by Westerners and Israelis could be hit.

Yuthasak said that a second suspect had managed to leave the country. Police said the detained suspect had not yet been charged with any offence.

Thai officials have seemed irritated by travel advisories issued by the U.S. and Israeli governments, followed by several more since Friday, and Foreign Minister Surapong Towijakchaikul said diplomats from countries that had issued warnings would meet with him for an explanation Monday.

Tourism is a big money-earner for Thailand and ministers are keen not to deter travelers, especially after the hit to tourism from severe flooding in 2011 and political unrest in 2010.

(Reporting by Aukkapon Niyomyat; Additional reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond; Writing by Alan Rabould; Editing by Martin Petty)

Thailand suspect - Reuters - January 2012
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