MADRID (Dow Jones) Spanish and Thai police have discovered a trove of documents including Chinese and European visas, as well as airport rubber stamps, amid a deepening probe into a Thailand-based Jihadist group, Spain’s interior ministry said Friday.
Investigations shed new light on ties between terror groups and petty crime, with evidence showing that an Islamist cell in Thailand supplied doctored passports and other documents to organizations like al Qaida, Pakistan’s Lashkar e Taiba and Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers, but also to groups involved in human trafficking and illegal arms trading.
The passports were stolen in several locations across Europe, the Spanish ministry said. In particular, one cell comprising six Pakistanis and one Nigerian–all detained earlier this week –stole passports from tourists in the Barcelona area, which it later sent to Thailand.
According to a report in Spanish newspaper El Pais, the Barcelona cell relied on pickpockets, who were paid for stolen passports. These passports, from specific nationalities and age brackets, were selected following criteria set by the group’s alleged head in Thailand, a Pakistani citizen identified by Spanish police as Muhammad Athar Butt.
One of those passports was carried by one of the Lashkar e Taiba terrorists who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, killing 175, El Pais said. That discovery triggered the current probe, the newspaper added.
Athar Butt and two accomplices were in posession of doctored passports from Canada and Italy when they were detained in Bangkok earlier this week, Spain’s Interior ministry said, as well as sophisticated equipment used for forgeries. Thai police has also discovered large amounts of documents and files belonging to the group, that are current being studied.