Armed Islamic State man tried to 'fly THAI'
Thai security authorities are on full alert despite having played down the arrest of a Malaysian national with alleged links to Islamic State (IS) militants in Pakistan while about to board a Thai Airways International (THAI) flight to Bangkok.
"His final destination was not Thailand but Malaysia. He was to be in Thailand just for transit to Malaysia," said a source at a military intelligence unit.
The source admitted that Malaysian authorities had alerted Thai officials over the possibility of IS attacks in the region over Christmas.
"Malaysia did not specifically say where or how a possible attack would occur but mentioned various possibilities, including an attack on some crowded venue or hijack," he said, reiterating that the warning did not specify Thailand.
According to the source, the authorities believe the suspect arrested in Pakistan was not targeting Thailand.
"His ticket had his final destination as Malaysia," he said, adding that Thai authorities are on full alert throughout the festive season.
He was speaking about an international media report that 20-year-old Al Muhd Alfie Kqhyriel, a Malaysian national, was arrested at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Saturday as he was boarding Thai Airways flight TG 342 bound for Bangkok.
Authorities seized four pistols, eight ammunition magazines and 70 bullets hidden in the man's luggage and shoes, according to the report. The man was said to have links to IS.
Meanwhile, a senior THAI executive said THAI does not operate a direct flight from Karachi to Malaysia.
If the IS suspect wanted to travel from Karachi to Malaysia he would need to take a connecting flight at Suvarnabhumi where security checks would have been conducted on him and his baggage, the executive said.
"Given the tight security measures and advanced technology at airports, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to be able to smuggle such a large amount of firearms and bullets through the airport and on to a commercial airliner, the official said.
"It would be ridiculous for the suspect to think that he could have carried those firearms and bullets on board."
"My question is why would he take a connecting flight with illicit goods when he would be subject to several checks,'' the THAI official said.
"We cannot confirm if Al Muhd Alfie Kqhyriel was on the manifest of the flight from Karachi. Manifests are treated as highly confidential by airline industry."