New ‘embassy plot’ foiled as security hiked
JERUSALEM / BANGKOK
AP photoPolice raised the state of alert throughout Israel yesterday, following the bomb attacks on diplomats in India and Georgia. Officials were also trying to determine whether Israelis were the intended target of an Iranian man carrying explosives who blew his own legs off in Bangkok.
Authorities in Thailand said the Iranian was responsible for the three explosions in Bangkok, wounding four people, including the alleged attacker. Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said there were no immediate signs that the targets were Israeli or Jewish, “but we can’t rule out that possibility.”
However, Israel’s defense minister has accused Iran of being behind the bombing in Thailand. Ehud Barak said yesterday’s explosion in Bangkok “proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror.”
He said Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah were “unrelenting terror elements endangering the stability of the region and endangering the stability of the world.”
Thai security forces found more explosives in the house where the Iranian man was staying in Bangkok, but it was not known what targets they might have been meant for, Police Gen. Pansiri Prapawat said. He added that a passport found at the scene of one of the blasts in Bangkok indicated the assailant was Saeid Moradi of Iran.
Yesterday’s violence began in the afternoon, when a stash of explosives was apparently detonated by accident in Moradi’s house, blowing off part of the roof. Police said two foreigners quickly left the residence, followed by a wounded Moradi. “He tried to wave down a taxi, but he was covered in blood, and the driver refused to take him,” Pansiri said. He then threw an explosive at the taxi and began running. Police who had been called to the area then tried to apprehend Moradi, who hurled a grenade to defend himself. “But somehow it bounced back” and blew off his legs, Pansiri said.
Photos of the wounded man showed him covered in dark soot on a sidewalk strewn with broken glass, lying in front of a primary and secondary school. No students were reported wounded. A dark satchel nearby was investigated by a bomb disposal unit. Pansiri said police found Iranian currency, US dollars and Thai money in the bag.
Three Thai men and one Thai woman were brought to Kluaynamthai Hospital for treatment, said Suwinai Busarakamwong, a doctor there.
Another Iranian was detained Tuesday night at Bangkok’s international airport, as he attempted to depart the country for neighboring Malaysia, said police commander Winai Thongsong. Authorities are interrogating the man, but it is not yet known whether he was involved in yesterday’s blasts.
The head of Israel’s domestic security service Shin Bet, Yoram Cohen, said Feb. 2 Iran was trying to strike Israeli targets around the world in a bid to stop the assassinations of its nuclear scientists. “An attack was thwarted that had been on the verge of being carried out two weeks ago in Thailand,” he said.
Security also increased in Turkey
Israel blamed Iran for Monday’s attacks in India and Georgia. Officials predicted that those attacks, which targeted Israeli diplomats, were just the first in a wave of assaults on Israeli targets by Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast rejected the accusations. “Iran condemns all acts of terrorism,” he was quoted as saying by al-Alam television.
Also in an e-mailed statement to Hurriyet Daily News, the Iranian embassy in Ankara said that latest incidents were “planned by the Zionist regime to slander the image of Islamic Republic.” Iran, meanwhile, has accused the Israelis of being behind a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and other sabotage of its nuclear program. Israel, like much of the West, believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said security had been heightened in public places, foreign embassies and offices, as well as Ben-Gurion International Airport. He said patrols had been stepped up and police were instructed to be especially vigilant. All the Israeli embassies in the world, including Turkey, have been instructed to increase security measures, an official Israeli’s embassy in Turkey told the Daily News yesterday.
In India, investigators were searching for what they called a well-trained motorcycle assailant who stuck a magnet bomb on an Israeli diplomatic car in New Delhi, wounding four people, including one critically. Israel sent forensic scientists from its police force to New Delhi to participate in the investigation, an Israeli government official said.
Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by Daily News staff