Wednesday, February 15, 2012
The face of Iranian terrorism
New Delhi police arrest five suspects tied to Monday’s bombing • Thai police say third Iranian suspect in Bangkok blasts escaped to Malaysia • Indian media: Investigators scanning records of all Iranian nationals, Lebanese students who arrived recently.
Eli Leon, Lilach Shoval and News Agencies
CCTV footage of one of the suspected terrorists, Saeid Moradi, walking on a Bangkok street on Tuesday.
Authorities in India and Thailand announced Wednesday that they were making progress in investigating the attacks in their respective countries this week that, at least in the Indian case, directly targeted Israeli Embassy officials. Police arrested five suspects in connection with Monday's bombing that wounded the wife of the Defense Ministry attache, according to reports in Indian media, while Thai police have have two men in custody they believe were behind Tuesday's bombing in the Thai capital and are searching for a third suspect. An additional suspect in the Bangkok plot is believed to have fled to Malaysia.
Itzhak Shoham, the Israeli ambassador to Thailand, drew a clear line between the attacks against Israeli targets in New Delhi and Tiblisi, Georgia, on Monday and Tuesday's bombings in the Thai capital.
“We can assume from the other experiences that we were the target," Shoham told The Associated Press. Thai police found and defused two magnetic bombs that could be stuck on vehicles after Tuesday' blasts. “They are similar to the ones used in Delhi and in Tblisi," Shoham said. "From that we can assume that this is the same network of terror." He said the arrest of two Iranians suspected of involvement in the blasts “again leaves not too much room to assume who was behind it."
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again pointed the finger at Iran, saying it is destabilizing the world and that its aggression must be stopped. Speaking at the Knesset, Netanyahu reiterated Israel's claims that Iran was responsible for explosions this week that targeted Israeli diplomats in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
“Iran is targeting innocent diplomats around the world. If this aggression isn't halted, if red lines are not clearly marked, Iran's aggression will ultimately spread to many other countries," Netanyahu warned.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the security arrangements at Israeli embassies in countries geographically close to Iran, saying they were different than arrangements at embassies in other countries, such as the U.S. or Canada. Speaking to Israel Radio on Wednesday, Lieberman said that the attacks were carried out on Monday, as the Israeli embassies were closed on Sunday - the fourth anniversary of the death of Hezbollah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, who died in a 2008 Damascus car-bomb blast.
Lieberman said Israel has sent officials to India to take part in the investigation of Monday's attack and that he was confident the perpetrators would be caught.
One day after Monday’s terrorist attack in New Delhi and a failed assassination attempt in Tbilisi, both involving Israeli targets, suspected Iranian terrorists moved on to Thailand on Tuesday as three explosions ripped through a busy Bangkok neighborhood, wounding four Thai civilians and blowing off the legs of a foreigner whom police blamed for the violence.
The incident in Bangkok occurred in the Ekamai district and began with an explosion in an apartment that had been rented by three Iranians several weeks earlier, just one kilometer from the Israeli Embassy. Thai police who entered the apartment after the blast found explosive materials, lending support to their assessment that the apartment was being used as a bomb factory for planned terrorist attacks.
Moments after the explosion, two men wearing backpacks were seen fleeing what was left of the structure. One of the men, wearing a cap and a dark colored jacket, was observed walking down a street carrying small devices similar to radios.
Another man, identified as Said Muradi, was later also seen leaving the apartment. He was covered in blood, and tried to flag down a taxi cab after exiting the building. When the driver of the cab refused to stop, Muradi hurled a grenade at it, causing damage to the vehicle. When police arrived, spotted Muradi and moved toward him, he tossed another grenade at them, but it apparently ricocheted off an object – some reports said it was a tree – and blew up near him, severing one of his legs. A picture posted on Twitter purportedly showed a wounded man lying on a sidewalk strewn with broken glass, his leg apparently sheared off. His second leg was amputated in surgery. The wounded Iranian was in police custody at a Bangkok hospital. Immigration police detained a second Iranian as he tried to board a flight for Malaysia.
Both men were facing four charges, including possession of explosives, attempted murder, attempted murder of a policeman and causing explosions that damaged property, National Police Chief Gen. Prewpan Damapong said. Security forces were searching for a third Iranian suspect.
Police Col. Sittiphab Baiprasert told The Associated Press the blasts occurred about 100 meters (328 feet) apart on Sukhumvit Soi 71, a multi-lane thoroughfare with businesses and apartment blocks.
Three Thai men and a Thai woman were brought to Kluaynamthai Hospital for treatment, Suwinai Busarakamwong, a doctor there, said. The cab driver was among the wounded, reports said.
Several Thai television stations reported that an identification card found in a satchel near the site of the grenade explosion indicated Muradi was of Iranian descent. Iranian currency was also found among the man’s possessions. Police Col. Warawut Taweechaikarn, a senior officer in the district, confirmed the reports and said the wounded foreigner was Iranian.
Documents Muradi was carrying indicated he arrived in Phuket, Thailand, on Feb. 8 from Seoul, South Korea, and spent a few nights in a hotel in the Chonburi district, a two-hour drive from Bangkok. On the same day Muradi arrived in Thailand, Mohammad Hazai, 42, also arrived in the country. According to Thai police, Hazai was also in the apartment at the time of the explosion, and was arrested after the incident at the Bangkok International Airport before attempting to board a plane to Malaysia.
Thai police said both Muradi and Hazai confessed to planning attacks on Israeli targets in Thailand. Explosives found in the apartment were apparently meant for use in assassination attempts rather than to blow up buildings or other structures. A police bomb squad searching the house found and defused two explosives, each made of three or four pounds of C-4 explosives, inside a pair of radios. Prewpan Damapong said the bombs were “magnetic” and could be affixed to vehicles. “From the investigation, we found the type of explosives indicated that the prepared targets were individuals,” Wichean said. “Based on the equipment and materials we found, they were aimed at individuals and the destruction capacity was not intended for large crowds or big buildings.”
In the attack in New Delhi a day earlier, Tal Yehoshua Koren, wife of the Defense Ministry attache in India, was in her car and stopped at an intersection when a man on a motorcycle appeared from behind, attached a bomb to the car on the opposite side to the gas tank – if it had been on the tank side it would have been a bigger blast and likely caused fatalities. Media reports said five people had been detained for questioning.
Koren is recuperating from shrapnel wounds, which reportedly pierced her lungs, spine and liver. Indian media reported that she underwent spinal surgery, but is conscious and can talk.
Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat confirmed that the blast there was caused by a "sticky bomb.” He said witnesses saw a lone motorbike rider attach the device to the right rear side of the car in which the Israeli diplomat's wife was travelling.
He said the device, which was about the size of an iPad, would have exploded about three to five seconds after it was stuck to the vehicle and magnetic fragments were found at the scene. "This is the first time that this modus operandi has been seen in India," Bhagat told Reuters.
Indian media said investigators were scanning records of all Iranian nationals as well as Lebanese students who arrived in the country in recent months.
India said on Tuesday it was still unsure who was behind the attack. It has been not publicly commented on Israel's accusation that Tehran was the culprit. Police were visiting the Israeli Embassy on Wednesday. Media reported that two Israeli Mossad agents had flown into New Delhi. Delhi Police Wednesday recovered an abandoned red motorcycle from south Delhi's Lado Sarai area, an official told the Times of India Wednesday. An intensive search had been launched for the owner of the bike, a Special Cell police official told IANS.
A similar attack was prevented at the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Monday. A local man employed as a driver for the embassy heard a noise from the back of his vehicle and noticed a plastic object that looked like an explosive attached to the bottom of the car. The driver parked the car at the side of the road and called the police. An explosives team defused the bomb without incident, and a police spokesman said the device was timed to explode shortly after the vehicle entered the Israeli Embassy grounds.