Bangkok blasts: Thai court issues arrest warrant for fifth suspectBy
Iranian Javad Nikkahfard, 52, an alleged explosives expert, is wanted in connection with last week’s events
A Thai court has issued a warrant for a fifth suspect involved in last week’s Bangkok blasts, believed to be an “explosives specialist” who was providing training in bomb assembly and detonation to the three suspects already detained by police.
The man, who has been named but not confirmed as Iranian national Javad Nikkahfard, 52, was captured on CCTV leaving the house at which a cache of explosives accidentally detonated on 14 February. He faces charges of manufacturing and illegally possessing explosives, and causing an explosion to physically harm others, but is thought to have fled Thailand the same day as the explosions.
Last week’s bizarre sequence of events began when the roof of a house allegedly rented by three Iranian men blew off, sending its trio of tenants into the streets of Ekkamai, east Bangkok. Two of them fled on foot but the third, Saied Moradi, 28, chucked explosives at a passing taxi and again at police. In the melee, he mistakenly detonated one of the bombs at his feet and blew off one of his legs. He is now in custody along with Mohammed Khazei, 42, who was detained by authorities while trying to board a flight the same day at Bangkok airport.
Police in Thailand are also awaiting the extradition of the third man, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, 31, who is currently being detained in Malaysia after fleeing to Kuala Lumpur.
Thai authorities also issued a warrant last week for the arrest of Leila Rohani, a woman who is believed to have rented the Ekkamai house but has returned to Iran. Police are now also on the hunt for another woman, who may have rented the house with Rohani but also since returned to Iran, local media reported.
Police confirmed last week that the three main suspects were Iranian and that their targets were Israeli diplomats, citing the similarity of “sticky” bombs used in Delhi and Tbilisi just days earlier. But authorities told the Guardian that the mens’ nationalities had still not yet been confirmed by Iran and Thailand’s foreign minister Surapong Towichukchaikul told reporters that the Bangkok blasts were unrelated to those in India or Georgia.
According to the Shia leader of Thailand, Syedsulaiman Husaini, the suspects were probably part of an exiled Iranian opposition group rather than hitmen hired by the Iranian government itself. They were probably trying to reflect badly on Tehran and use the incident to overthrow the incumbent government, Husaini told the Bangkok Post.
Thai media was on Monday awash with threats of decreased tourism to Thailand as a result of last week’s explosions. Tourism currently accounts for 6% of Thailand’s GDP, but may yet suffer another blow after the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force last week named the country one of 15 high risk countries for failure to take sufficient steps against the financing of terrorism and money laundering – ranking it alongside Burma, Cuba, Nigeria and Syria.
Thailand’s national security council, Wichean Potephosree, said last week that “there are threats all over the world, and our country is a weak link”. Security has since been increased in transportation hubs, shopping malls and popular tourist destinations, while Thailand has put on hold a “visa on arrival” system for visitors from Middle Eastern countries.
from Kate Hodal