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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
Terror suspect Hambali quizzed
Hambali is alleged to have links to al-Qaeda
Thailand says one of the world's most wanted terror suspects is now being interrogated at a secret location.

Hambali - an Indonesian whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin - is suspected of being the operations chief for Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a group allegedly linked to al-Qaeda and blamed for last year's Bali bombing and other attacks.

He was captured during a raid on an apartment building after a tip-off by an unnamed government in the ancient Thai temple city of Ayutthaya on Monday.

This man is a very big fish. He is the main link between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah
John Howard
Australian Prime Minister

Thai officials said he had been flown to Indonesia under US custody, although this was denied by Indonesian police.

"Right now we are in the process of interrogating him with the allied countries. I cannot say where," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.

Residents who witnessed his arrest told the Associated Press news agency that he had lived in the building for only two weeks.

They said plainclothes officers smashed down the door of his one-bedroom apartment and took him away after a struggle.

They described him as being a quiet neighbour.

'Lethal terrorist'

JI is blamed for a string of bombings across the region, including Bali, and the attack on the Marriott hotel in Jakarta on 5 August, in which 13 people died.

"Hambali was one of the world's most lethal terrorists... He is no longer a problem to those of us who love freedom," said US President George W Bush in a speech to troops.

Motorcyclists ride past an apartment complex in Ayutthaya, Thailand, where Thai officials say they captured  Hambali
Neighbours notified police about the appearance of a foreigner
Hours after the arrest was announced, Indonesian police said a suspect in the Marriott blasts was arrested outside Jakarta, but they did not identify him.

Meanwhile, Hambali's current whereabouts remain unclear.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Jakarta says he is believed to have been arrested in a joint operation with Thai police in central Thailand, possibly as early as Monday, and is probably now in US custody, but it is uncertain where.

Intelligence sources say his whereabouts were discovered from information gleaned from the interrogation of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, a senior al-Qaeda member who was caught in March.

A senior Thai immigration police official told AFP news agency that Hambali travelled into Thailand on a fake Spanish passport, and disguised himself by shaving his heavy beard.

'Big fish'

Australia, which lost 88 nationals in the Bali attack, welcomed news of the arrest.

"There should be universal relief and pleasure that a man as evil as Hambali has been caught," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.

Bali bomb attack
Bomb attack on Marriott Hotel, Jakarta, 13 killed
Bali resort bomb attacks, 12 October 2002, 202 killed
Christmas Eve 2000 attacks on Indonesian churches, 18 killed
January 2001 attacks in the Philippines, 22 killed

"This man is a very big fish," he said.

The Philippines also welcomed Hambali's arrest.

"The capture of Hambali is a big blow to Jemaah Islamiah and the world terrorist network," President Gloria Arroyo's National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said.

"However, we should not let our guards down. We have to raise the alert level against repercussions or retaliatory attack."

Regional intelligence services believe that Hambali, aged about 40, has a seat on al-Qaeda's military committee and is the only representative from South East Asia.

He is thought to have been involved in some of the planning meetings for the 11 September attacks on the US, and to have been the brains and financial conduit behind the Bali attacks.

Hambali travelled to Afghanistan in the late 1980s where he is believed to have been recruited into al-Qaeda, and is thought to now act as a bridge between that organisation and JI.

The BBC's Larry Jagan reports from Bangkok
"His whereabouts were discovered as a result of an international investigation"


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