Southeast Asia's 'mini-Al Qaeda' nests in Thailand

Thai police said this week they foiled an attack by Jemaah Islamiyah on embassies and resort beaches. Until recently Thailand has denied that Al Qaeda or the closely- affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) are active inside the country. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra dismissed reports late last year that JI leaders held meetings in Thailand as “fabrications” invented by “crazy people.”

But now his country is moving against a hitherto little-known cell in its southernmost provinces, home of a tiny Muslim minority. This week the government foiled attacks on five embassies in Bangkok and two Thai beach resorts, arresting three Thais and one Singaporean. Intelligence analysts say it was only a matter of time until a larger plot was hatched in Thailand, particularly as targets in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore have all gotten “harder” since officials revealed various plots in those countries. The arrests also underscore the regional nature of JI – the group behind the Bali attack – and how the Wahhabi ideology it shares with Al Qaeda has spread beyond ethnic and national lines. Like the group led by Osama bin Laden, which is thought to have members from more than 35 countries, JI has shown it can move beyond its base membership, drawn from Indonesia. Full Story

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