Thailand warns of al-Qaeda plot to attack US consulate
Associated Press in Bangkok
Thai authorities have tightened security measures at the US consulate in the northern province of Chiang Mai following reports that it was a possible target of attack from al-Qaeda and Salafist terrorist groups this month, officials said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters she had been informed about the reports and that she had ordered security agencies to add more forces to provide safety at the facility, 570km north of Bangkok.
“The US embassy in Thailand has not requested any extra measures but we have to monitor the situation attentively,” Yingluck said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung refused to give details about the threats, but said the reinforced measures had been put in place since February 6 and will continue until the end of multinational military exercises, called Cobra Gold, on Sunday.
“The reports did not come from foreign sources but from domestic sources. News like these has been going around for a while and I deem it dangerous,” Chalerm said.
The United States is among the seven nations participating in the exercises, which kicked off on Monday in Chiang Mai. The other countries involved are Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
“There are several reasons [for the warning] but I must keep them confidential,” Chalerm told reporters.
US Embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler in Bangkok said the US Consulate-General remained open for business but said precautions will be taken to protect US facilities.
“We continue to take any precautions to protect our facility – whether it’s in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or worldwide – our employees and our visitors,” Braunohler said.
Thailand has not been a major target for terrorism attacks, although in January last year the US and the Israeli embassies sent out warnings of a possible terror threat in the capital, which in the end saw the arrest of a Lebanese-Swedish suspect accused of possessing nearly 3,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that can be used to make explosives.
A month later, two Iranian suspects were detained following an explosion on Valentine’s Day that saw four civilians wounded. The blast came a day after an Israeli diplomatic car was bombed in India – an attack Israel blamed on Iran.
Thailand is a long-standing partner of the United States and major non-Nato ally.