x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Magnets link Thailand and India bomb attacks

Israel PM Netanyahu calls for world powers to stop Iran’s “aggression” or strikes will spread.

An Iranian bombing suspect, Mohammad Khazaei, sits at an immigration office after he was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport.
An Iranian bombing suspect, Mohammad Khazaei, sits at an immigration office after he was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport.

BANGKOK // Thai investigators said yesterday they believed they had found a link between this week's bomb blasts in Bangkok and New Delhi, two of three attacks Israel has blamed on Iran.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has accused Iran of targeting diplomats and said if the world did not stop Iran's "aggression" the attacks would spread.

Iran, whose leaders had threatened to retaliate for Israel's alleged car-bomb assassination of several of its nuclear scientists, denied involvement in the attacks on Monday and Tuesday, including a bomb that failed to explode in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Iran blamed them on Israel.

The explosives used in India and Thailand were similar, a Thai security official said. They both had the same "magnetic sheets".

"The individual was in possession of the same magnets and we are currently examining the source of the magnet," the national security council secretary, Wichian Podphosri, said.

A man carrying an Iranian passport lost a leg when a bomb he was carrying in Bangkok went off on Tuesday after an earlier explosion, apparently accidental, at a house he was renting. His other leg had to be amputated.

The suspect, identified as Saeid Moradi, remained unconscious in a Bangkok hospital after surgery, a hospital surgeon said.

Police said he had been charged with illegal possession of explosives, causing explosions, attempted murder and assaulting a police officer. Two other men shared the rented house with him. One was arrested at Bangkok's airport on Tuesday but he has not been charged.

The other was arrested yesterday afternoon at Kuala Lumpur airport as he tried to board a plane to Tehran, Malaysian police said. The suspect, in his 30s, had evaded authorities at Bangkok airport and flown to Malaysia.

In the Bangkok attack, one bomb went off in the suspects' home. Another was thrown at a taxi that wouldn't take one of the men who left the house. The third blew off the man's leg when he tried to throw it at police and it either went off before he could throw it or it hit something and ricocheted back at him.

A day earlier in the Indian capital, a bomb wrecked a car taking an Israeli embassy official to pick up her children from school, police said. The woman was in a stable condition yesterday after surgery to her spine and liver.

On the same day, an attempt to bomb an Israeli embassy car in Tbilisi failed and the device was defused, Israeli and Georgian officials said.

Israel's ambassador to Thailand said the bombings in Bangkok, New Delhi and Tiblisi bore similarities.

"If you put together all the details that we have until now, including the disclosure of the explosives, they are very similar, if not the same as that were used against our diplomats and our people in India and Georgia," he told Thai TV.

Mr Netanyahu told parliament that the world must draw red lines to stop Iran.

"The nations of the world must condemn Iran's terror actions and demarcate red lines against Iranian aggression. If such aggression is not stopped it will spread to many countries."

Iran dismissed the allegations. Iranian state TV quoted the foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, as saying that Israel was behind the explosions.

Russia condemned the bomb attacks in India and Georgia but did not accuse Iran or any other country of involvement.

Russia has close ties with Iran and built the Islamic republic's first nuclear power plant, which began operating last year, but invariably condemns any attacks it considers terrorism.

India also refused to be drawn into the blame game, saying it did not have enough evidence to reach a conclusion. "The Indian government does not have any evidence pointing to any individual, entity, organisation or country being involved in Monday's blast, so far," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Police said it was the first time that such an attack in which a motorbike rider attached an explosive device to a car with a magnet had been carried out in India.

India has good relations with both Iran and Israel, so the attack makes its diplomatic balancing act between the two countries more difficult and has thrust the tension between the Middle East rivals on to its doorstep.

Israel is the second-largest supplier of arms to India. But India is Iran's biggest oil buyer, relying on it for 12 per cent of its needs, and it is Iran's top supplier of rice.