Thailand Receives IS Warning – Now Hunting for Four Syrians

BANGKOK (Reuters) -

Thailand said on Sunday it was searching for four Syrian nationals who have overstayed their visas, as the country is on high alert after a Russian warning of possible attacks by suspected Syrian members of Islamic State.

The authorities did not suggest the four men were a security threat but said they were unaccounted for, and released their names and photographs.

Last week, a document from the Thai Special Branch police was leaked to social media. The document showed that the police had been warned by the Russian intelligence service that 10 Syrians linked to Islamic State entered Thailand during October intending to attack Russian interests.

The warning prompted Thailand to step up security around potential targets, including in the cities of Pattaya and Phuket, both popular with tourists and home to large Russian expatriate communities.

However, the Immigration Bureau said the four Syrian men being sought had entered Thailand between April and October, not during the time frame specified by Russian intelligence.

“Of the four who are unaccounted for, we may just want to locate them to charge them for overstaying, that is all,” Immigration Bureau commissioner Nathathorn Prausoontorn said.

Russia began air strikes in Syria on Sept. 30 and has stepped up attacks in recent weeks. An IS affiliate claimed responsibility for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in October, killing all 224 people on board.

Some foreign embassies in Bangkok and the United Nations, which has its regional headquarters in the Thai capital, issued security warnings for staff following the warning from Russia.

In August, 20 people were killed in a bombing in Bangkok, the worst incident of its kind in Thai history. It dealt a fresh blow to Thailand’s vital tourism industry, which had just begun to recover after the political protests of last year.