Thai police say Iranians who accidentally set off explosives at their home in Bangkok were plotting to attack Israeli diplomats
Thai police have confirmed that three Iranians, arrested after accidentally detonating a cache of homemade explosives at their rented home in Bangkok, were plotting to attack Israeli diplomats, bolstering claims by Israel that the group was part of an Iranian-backed network of terror.
But Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said the three men were not linked to Hezbollah, as the bombs were not designed for large-scaled destruction.
“It was not a terrorist act, it was just an act to demonstrate some insignificant symbol,” he told reporters.
Police chief General Prewpan Dhamapong told a Thai television station late on Wednesday that the bombers’ “target was specific and aimed at Israeli diplomatic staff”, hours after a senior official told the Guardian that the men were more likely would-be assassins rather than terrorists.
Prewpan also confirmed that the DIY “sticky” bombs found at the bomb site in the leafy Ekkamai neighbourhood of east Bangkok matched the devices planted a day earlier on Israeli diplomatic cars in India and Georgia that caused injuries but no deaths.
“The type of improvised explosives they used were the same. The type that was attached to vehicles,” Prewpan said, adding that a magnetic strip found in Bangkok was the same type used in New Delhi.
Bomb squads scouring the two-storey house found two DIY bombs in the form of portable radios, stuffed with C-4 explosives whose “kill radius” extends to five metres, the Nation reported. Hand grenades were to be used as the bombs’ detonator.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Tuesday’s violence in Bangkok, while Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the allegations baseless and said Israel was trying to damage his country’s relations with Thailand and fuel conspiracy theories.
Thailand’s government says it is still piecing together what happened when the men accidentally detonated the homemade explosives at their rented home, blowing off the roof and sending the three men running for safety into the street.
One of the men, Saied Moradi, emerged from the house bloody and disorientated, according to eyewitnesses, then threw an explosive at a taxi cab, injuring four Thais. He then threw another at police but the bomb detonated in front of him, causing one leg to be blown off immediately and the other to be amputated later in hospital, where he is still in critical condition.
Bomb disposal teams combed the Iranians’ house again on Wednesday looking for more evidence, while security forces were searching for an Iranian woman they said had originally rented it. Local media reported that the woman, named as Rohani Leila, 28, left Thailand on 5 February.
Two of the men who fled the destroyed house on Tuesday have been detained by Thai police, including Moradi, while a third was arrested on Wednesday in neighbouring Malaysia after boarding a flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur overnight. Thai authorities have said that the men face charges of illegal use of explosives and attempting to kill others and officials on duty, but not terrorism charges.
The travel company which helped facilitate the Thai visas for the four suspects is also being investigated by police, the Thai-Asean News Network reported.
Israel has accused Iran of waging a campaign of state terror and has threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran has blamed the Jewish state for the recent killings of Iranian atomic scientists and has denied responsibility for all three plots this week.
A number of countries have issued travel advisories to Thailand, among them the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada, while in Bangkok security has been amped up in transportation hubs, shopping malls and popular tourist hangouts throughout the city, including Khao San road, local media have reported.
The Jewish temple on Sukhumvit 22 has also been under 24-hour police watch after a Lebanese-Swedish man with alleged links to pro-Iranian Hezbollah was detained by police at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport last month. Authorities later discovered a warehouse filled with nearly four tonnes of urea fertiliser and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate.
Authorities said then that Thailand appeared to be a staging ground, but not the target of an attack.
from Kate Hodal