US ‘silent on Hambali’

BANGKOK: The United States is providing Thailand with no information on terror suspect Hambali, who was arrested in the country two months ago and then whisked off by American authorities, Thai security officials said yesterday. 

Hambali, an Indonesian whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, is accused of masterminding last year's nightclub blasts that killed 202 people in Bali and other bombings. He is the alleged operations chief of Jemaah Islamiah, the South-East Asian terrorist network with links to al-Qaeda. 

Hambali was captured on Aug 11 in the ancient temple city of Ayutthaya by Thai forces and the CIA. He was handed over to US authorities three days later and flown to an undisclosed location for interrogation. 

“We have constant contact with American counterparts regarding the interrogation of Hambali but so far we have received no information on the results of the investigation,'' Lt-Gen Jumpol Manmai said. Jumpol commands the country's Special Branch police which deals with international terrorism. 

Other Thai security sources said the Americans had not kept their word on allowing the Thais and Indonesians to be fully involved in the case. When Hambali was still in Thailand, the Americans allowed two Thai investigators to interrogate him, but restricted questions to how the alleged terrorist entered Thailand and how he obtained fake travel documents, the sources said. 

“But once the Americans took him under their custody, they gave us nothing. They only told us that the suspect was being interrogated somewhere at an American base in the Pacific,'' one source said, adding that Indonesian counterparts had also complained that the Americans refused their requests for a joint interrogation and demands that Hambali be repatriated to Indonesia to face trial. 

A US Embassy spokesman declined all comment, saying only that Hambali remained in US custody at an undisclosed location. 

The Malaysians who are holding Hambali's Malaysian wife are also hoping to get a chance to interrogate the suspect. Noralwizah Lee Abdullah was captured in Thailand along with her husband and then handed to Malaysian authorities. 

Shortly after the arrests, US President George W. Bush called Hambali “one of the world's most lethal terrorists.” He had been Asia's most-wanted fugitive since the Bali bombings last Oct 12. 

South-East Asian anti-terrorist officials are eager to learn as much as possible from Hambali about Jemaah Islamiah and its plans for any future strikes in the region. 

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said that Hambali had come to Thailand not only to seek a safe haven but to move against a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. The Oct 21 to 22 Apec meeting will bring 21 regional leaders, including Bush, to Thailand. – AP 

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