Thailand says Israeli diplomats target of Bangkok bombers; Iran denies link to blasts

Israeli officials believe the bombs used in Bangkok on Tuesday are similar to those used in the attacks in India and Georgia a day earlier. (Reuters)

Israeli diplomats were the target of a failed bomb plot by three Iranian suspects in Bangkok, a senior Thai intelligence official said on Wednesday, as Iran denied any link with the explosions and accused Israel of being responsible.

“These three Iranian men are an assassination team and their targets were Israeli diplomats including the ambassador,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Their plan was to attach bombs to diplomats’ cars.”

Israel’s ambassador to Thailand, meanwhile, said the bombs discovered in a Bangkok house were similar to those used in attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia.

Ambassador Itzhak Shoham told The Associated Press on that Wednesday the similarity in the explosives linked all the attacks.

He said, “From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror.”

One of the Iranian suspects had his legs blown off as he hurled an explosive device at Thai police while fleeing an earlier blast at a house in Bangkok on Tuesday, officials said.

The explosions came a day after bombers targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia, with a female diplomat seriously wounded in New Delhi, in attacks Israel said were orchestrated by Iran.

Iran, which has already denied responsibility for the Delhi and Tbilisi incidents, said it had no link to the Bangkok blasts and blamed what it called “elements linked with the (Israeli) Zionist regime.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast “rejected the accusations by the Zionist regime of implication (of Iran) and accused that regime of trying to harm the friendly and historic relations between Iran and Thailand,” according to the Iranian state television website.

Thai bomb squad experts were called out to the Sukhumvit Road area in the east of the city in response to an apparently unintended blast at a house rented by an Iranian, after which three men were seen fleeing, authorities said.

Authorities detained a second Iranian man trying to board a flight out of the country while the third suspect is believed to have fled to Malaysia.

Explosives and magnets were later found inside the partially destroyed house, police said.

National Security Council chief Wichean Potephosree says authorities are investigating the possible targets and if there was any link between Tuesday’s explosions in Bangkok and one a day before New Delhi - an attack Israel blamed on Iran, according to AP.

He said Wednesday that the type of explosives found indicated they were “aimed at individuals and the destruction capacity was not intended for large crowds or big buildings.”

“Yesterday’s incident was caused by current international tensions in world politics,” he told a news conference.

“It’s happening not only in Thailand but also elsewhere. Thailand’s weak point is that we are an open country to help our economy so I urge all Thais to be vigilant and inform the authorities if they see anything suspicious.”

Bangkok has been on the watch for a terror attack since police last month charged a Lebanese man suspected of planning a strike, following a U.S. warning that tourist areas might be targeted.

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

Israel was quick to accuse Iran of involvement in Tuesday’s blasts in Bangkok.

“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 Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.

The blast in New Delhi blew up a car, critically wounding the Israeli diplomat and her Indian driver.

In Tbilisi, an Israeli embassy employee found a bomb on his car and contacted police who were able to defuse the device before it detonated, according to Georgia's interior ministry.

Thai 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.

The United States condemned the Bangkok blasts and voiced concern about a worldwide “uptick” in such violence, including some with alleged links to Iran.

“We’re concerned about it. Some of these (attacks) have been linked to Iran,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The Bangkok blasts 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.

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