Pakistani was Islamic State forger, Prawit says
A Pakistani recently arrested in Bangkok produced fake passports for ISIS members, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said Tuesday.
Gen Prawit, who is also defence minister and in charge of national security, said there had been an attempt to bring ISIS members to Thailand but the plan was nipped in the bud.
He was referring to the arrest of Pakistani national, Muhammad Iqbal, 51, in Bangkok on Sunday. The man allegedly produced fake passports for transnational criminals.
"He wanted to bring fighters from the Middle East to our country, but we stopped that. I can confirm there are no ISIS members in Thailand," he said. "Actually the suspect lives abroad. He left Thailand, returned and was then arrested," Gen Prawit said.
According to a source, who asked not to be named, Mr Iqbal was arrested in Thailand and deported to Pakistan in 2015.
He obtained a new passport and shifted base to Malaysia where he was in touch with another Pakistani national, Atiq ur Rehman, believed to have links with al-Qaeda and who was a prime suspect in the 2004 Madrid bombings.
At some point Mr Rehman allegedly started supplying fake passports and other documents to ISIS sympathisers. Mr Iqbal was allegedly his forger and his network was possibly well entrenched in Malaysia, the source said.
Mr Iqbal was also allegedly involved in trafficking fake Indian currency via Thailand with the help of fellow Pakistani nationals Mohammad Shafique and Ahsan Javed Cheema, both of whom were deported from Thailand, according to the source.
At the time of Mr Iqbal's arrest, a body search found four Indian and three Singaporean passports, while a room search found equipment used for making counterfeit documents and passports.
Mr Iqbal was charged with trading in counterfeit documents and is being held by authorities at an undisclosed location while the investigation continues, the source said.
The arrest came as a result of an extended probe which began after authorities in February 2016 arrested Iranian national Hamid Reza Jafary, known as the "Doctor", in Chachoengsao province.
Thai authorities are also investigating if Mr Iqbal was also involved in making fake passports in 2016 and 2017 for militants from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and possibly Thailand wanting to join the ISIS group in the Middle East.