Thai officials: Attacks in Bangkok aimed at Israelis

Two Iranians arrested in connection with blasts, police in pursuit of three suspects, say Thai defense officials.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
February 14, 2012 20:43
3 minute read.
Police investigate site of blast in Bangkok

Thailand blast 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Thai defense officials said the Iranian citizens responsible for explosions in Thailand on Tuesday intended to attack Israeli targets, Army Radio reported.

Two suspects have been arrested, and police were in pursuit of three additional suspects. The first arrest is an Iranian man who was hospitalized Bangkok when a bomb he was carrying exploded and blew one of his legs off. The second is 42-year-old Mohammad Hazai, who was arrested at the airport just before boarding a flight to Malaysia. 

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Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that the series of bomb blasts that struck Thailand was part of an attempted terrorist attack perpetrated by Iran.

Shortly before the blast that wounded the Iranian bomber there had been an explosion in a house the man was renting in the Ekamai area of central Bangkok, and shortly afterward, another blast on a nearby road. Five people were injured in the explosions.

"The attempted terror attack in Thailand proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to operate in the ways of terror and the latest attacks are an example of that," Barak said while on a state visit to Singapore. The incident came one day after near simultaneous attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia.

Despite Barak's accusations leveled against Tehran, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Israel was in contact with the authorities in Bangkok and was still awaiting confirmation that the man involved in the blasts was indeed Iranian.

The ministry added that it was not yet clear if Israel was the intended target of the attacks.

Thai police said they were working to make safe an unspecified amount of explosives found in the house, which did not appear to have been badly damaged.

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Police said they were looking for two other men who had been living there and they later said they had apprehended one suspect at Bangkok's main Suvarnabhumi airport.

"We discovered the injured man's passport. It's an Iranian passport and he entered the country through Phuket and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 8th of this month," Police General Bansiri Prapapat told Reuters.

Police declined to make any link between Tuesday's incident and the arrest last month of a Lebanese man in Bangkok who, according to the Thai authorities, had links to Hezbollah.

Police discovered a large amount of explosive material in an area southwest of Bangkok at around the time of that arrest. The United States, Israel and other countries issued warnings, subsequently lifted, of possible terrorist attacks in areas frequented by foreigners.

The Lebanese man has been charged with possession of explosive material and prosecutors said further charges could follow next week.

Tuesday's blasts in the sprawling Thai capital were not near the main area for embassies.

A taxi driver told Thai television the suspect had thrown a bomb in front of his car when he refused to pick him up near the site of the first blast. He was wounded slightly.

Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said police had then tried to move in and arrest the man but he attempted to throw another bomb at them. It went off before he was able to do so, blowing one of his legs off. A doctor at Chulalongkorn Hospital told reporters the other leg had had to be amputated.

Another doctor was quoted on television as saying three Thai people had suffered minor injuries in the incident, in addition to the taxi driver.

There have been no major attacks blamed on Islamist militants in Bangkok even though Muslim rebels are battling government security forces in Muslim-dominated southern provinces of the Buddhist kingdom.

In 1994, suspected Islamist militants tried to set off a large truck bomb outside the Israeli embassy in Bangkok but they abandoned the bid and fled after the truck was involved in a minor traffic accident as it approached the mission.

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