Blasts rattle Bangkok as Israel accuses Iran

Anusak Konglang – AFP February 14, 2012

A string of blasts rattled the Thai capital Bangkok on Tuesday with Israel pointing the finger at arch-foe Iran, a day after bomb attacks targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia.

The explosions maimed a fleeing suspect believed to be an Iranian national. Israel linked the incident to a wider terrorist threat following Monday’s attacks, which left one female diplomat critically wounded in New Delhi.

“The attempted attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies are continuing to act in the ways of terror and the latest attacks are an example of that,” Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

The country assailed Iran as the world’s “biggest exporter of terror” after Monday’s attacks amid rising tensions in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also accused the Islamic republic of being responsible, along with Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah, for a series of failed attacks against Israeli targets in Thailand and Azerbaijan in mid-January.

Bangkok has been on edge since Thai police charged a Lebanese man last month suspected of planning an attack in the capital following a US warning of a possible terrorist strike against tourist areas.

Thai authorities alleged the Lebanese man had links to Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite group that is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

Police said they had found no direct link between Tuesday’s bombings and the earlier threat, but had received a separate warning from intelligence sources about a potential new attack.

“There was some warning of a possible attack and police were monitoring, but we did not know where it would happen,” national police chief Phrewphan Damapong told reporters.

Bomb squad investigators rushed to the scene after three men were seen fleeing after a blast at a house in the Sukhumvit Road area in the east of Bangkok.

One of the men hurled an explosive device at a taxi which refused to stop and later tried to throw another device at police, triggering a blast on the side of a busy road which tore off his legs, authorities said.

Police said they found an Iranian ID on the injured man, who was admitted to a Bangkok hospital for emergency treatment.

“So it’s likely that he’s an Iranian national,” Major General Pisit Pisuthisak, deputy commander of Bangkok Metropolitan Police, told AFP.

They later used a high pressure water cannon to defuse another device found inside the same house.

Authorities also detained an Iranian man at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport for questioning but it was not immediately clear if he was one of the two other suspects, whose motives were unclear.

Police were searching for the third man.

The blasts come amid rising tensions between Iran and its critics.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Monday’s attacks in India and Georgia in the “strongest possible terms”, although the White House reserved judgment on who was responsible.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has rejected the accusations that Tehran was behind them. “Iran condemns all acts of terrorism,” he was quoted as saying by Al-Alam television.

The method used in Monday’s attacks resembles the tactics of assassins who have been targeting Iranian nuclear scientists with magnetic bombs placed on their vehicles, murders blamed by Iran on Israeli and US secret services.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged people not to “jump to conclusions” about the blasts and urged people not to panic.

The safety scares are another blow to the kingdom’s tourist-friendly image, which was badly dented last year by devastating flooding across much of the country, as well as rounds of rival political protests in recent years.

In recent weeks security has been stepped up around possible targets in Bangkok, including the Israeli embassy and the Khao San Road backpacker district.

Britain on Tuesday warned its citizens to be on guard following the latest incident.

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