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Thais hold militant suspects

U.S. Embassy in Thailand heavily guarded
U.S. Embassy in Thailand heavily guarded

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Thai authorities arrest three suspected members of an Islamic militant group, accusing them of plotting terrorist attacks.
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JIHAD IN ASIA
A CNN Special Report by Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa
SPECIAL REPORT
War against terror: Southeast Asia front 

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Thai authorities Tuesday arrested three members of the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiya on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks at embassies and tourist sites in the country, Thai officials told CNN.

The three Thai men, including a doctor and a father and son, were arrested in early morning raids of their homes, Thai intelligence officials said. The suspects live in the Narathiwat province in the southern part of the country, near the Malaysian border -- a predominantly Muslim area in which authorities believe a Jemaah Islamiya cell operates.

A Thai official said authorities suspected the men were planning "to carry out attacks on foreign embassies and tourist attractions" at sites including Pattaya and Phuket. The United States and Australia recently warned against travel to those areas, citing the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Officials from several Asian countries and terrorist analysts say Jemaah Islamiya is linked to al Qaeda. "The Jemaah Islamiya network is more or less the al Qaeda cell in Southeast Asia," Southeast Asian analyst Zachary Abuza told CNN.

A U.S. Embassy official in Bangkok praised Tuesday's arrests as good examples of Thailand's efforts in fighting terrorism.

The arrests came just before U.S. President George W. Bush met at the White House with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Police linked Tuesday's move to the arrest last month of Arifin bin Ali, also known as John Wong Ah Hung, by Thai authorities on May 16 based on information provided by Singapore.

According to Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs, Ali is a senior member of Jemaah Islamiya who underwent training in weapons and explosives with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- an Islamic militant group in the Philippines that has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against civilians.

-- CNN Bangkok Bureau Chief Tom Mintier and Correspondent Maria Ressa contributed to this report


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