‘Bangkok bombers’ were assassins not terrorists, says Thai official

Senior security official seems to corroborate Israel’s claim that explosions were part of thwarted Iranian assassination plot

The three “Bangkok bombers” suspected of attempting an attack on the capital are more likely to be assassins than terrorists, a senior Thai security official working on the case has told the Guardian. This potentially corroborates Israel’s claims that the three men were part of a thwarted Iranian assassination plot in line with recent attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.

“The exact target we are still investigating, but we are looking at ‘who’ the target was rather than a general terrorist attack of ‘a big city’ or ‘crowds of people’,” the official said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “If it is an assassination attempt, it could be the armed services, drug lords or diplomats. We have to figure out who they were trying to assassinate.”

The official said that authorities had still not confirmed the nationalities of the suspects and that, until they had, their exact identities were speculative. “They have Iranian passports and documents, but we haven’t concluded that they are in fact Iranian, which is why we are looking in detail at this case,” he said.

A fourth suspect was added to the case late on Wednesday after the South Bangkok criminal court approved warrants for the arrests of four people travelling as Iranian nationals, the Bangkok Post reported. They were the alleged bomber Saeid Moradi, 28, Mohummad Hazaei, 42, Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh, 31, and Rohani Leila, 32, a woman who is said to have arrived in Thailand with the others and rented the house where the cache of explosives was found. Leila’s whereabouts is unknown.

The latest suspect to have been apprehended by police was detained by Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur at 3pm local time while trying to board a flight to Tehran, the Nation reported. He was apparently scheduled to leave Tehran on 25 February.

Further details about Tuesday’s alleged bomber, Saeid Moradi, who lost both legs in the last Bangkok explosion, emerged on Wednesday after reports of his whereabouts were released. He is said to have flown into Thailand on 8 February from South Korea, and spent five nights in the resort town of Pattaya. He checked into Top Thai hotel with only a backpack, the Bangkok Post reported, and was later joined by a friend who had a large bag with him. The two men hardly left the room, the Post reported, but they made a considerable impression on hotel staff: “Mr Moradi was good-looking and dressed neatly, as if he was a young entrepreneur,” one member of staff told reporters. “He was also polite and I can’t believe that he would be a bomber.”

The DIY explosives found in a Bangkok house after a series of blasts rocked the capital on Tuesday were similar to devices used against Israeli embassy targets in India and Georgia, Israel’s ambassador said on Wednesday, a day after Israel’s defence minister accused Iran of being behind the thwarted attack.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the allegations “baseless” and said that Israel was attempting to sabotage its relations with Thailand.

Five people, including the bomber himself, were injured in Tuesday’s blasts after three explosions went off in Bangkok’s bustling Ekkamai neighbourhood at around 2pm local time. The first explosion occurred at a residential house rented by three Iranian nationals, according to police, who fled the house after a cache of homemade explosives accidentally ignited. Two men fled the scene while the third, wounded and disorientated from the blast, attempted to hail a taxi before throwing a grenade at the car and then another at police.

The assailant, an Iranian national identified as Saied Moradi, missed his target, however, and the bomb detonated in front of him, blowing off one leg and requiring the amputation of the other.

Upon searching the assailant’s house, Thai police found and defused two magnetic bombs that could be attached to vehicles, much like those used in recent attacks against Israeli embassy targets, said the Israeli ambassador, Itzhak Shoham.

“They are similar to the ones used in Delhi and in Tbilisi,” Shoham told Associated Press. “From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror.”

A bomb squad source quoted in the Bangkok Post said that each bomb could cause serious damage within a 40-metre radius, and that such bomb-making methods had never before been seen in Thailand.

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from Kate Hodal

via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/15/bangkok-assassins-not-terrorists-official

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