x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Thai police confirm Israeli diplomats were target of Bangkok attacks

The Iranians arrested after accidentally setting off an explosives cache in Bangkok were planning to attack Israeli diplomats, according to Thailand's police chief.

NEW DELHI // The Iranians arrested after accidentally setting off an explosives cache in Bangkok were planning to attack Israeli diplomats, Thailand's police chief said yesterday, the first confirmation by local officials that the group was plotting such terror attacks.

The police chief, General Prewpan Dhamapong, said Thai authorities "know for certain" that the target "was Israeli diplomats".

Israel has accused Iran of waging a campaign of state terror against Israeli targets abroad, including a bomb attack on the car of a diplomat's wife in New Delhi on Monday, and a foiled attempt the same day to blow up a diplomatic car for the Israeli Embassy in Georgia.

The Iranian government has denied involvement in all three plots.

Explosives stored in a Bangkok house rented by a woman for several Iranian men blew up accidentally on Tuesday. The woman, Leila Rohani, is now being sought by police.

After fleeing the house, one of the men, Saeid Moradi, hurled a bomb at a taxi when its driver refused to give him a ride, wounding the driver and three other bystanders. He threw another explosive as he fled from the police. The blast ripped off one of his legs below the knee.

He was detained along with another Iranian man, Mohammad Kharzei. A third Iranian, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was detained on Wednesday in Malaysia, one day after boarding a flight there from the Thai capital.

Delhi investigators were still searching yesterday for the motorcyclist who planted the bomb on the diplomatic car seconds before it exploded.

According to a report in the Indian Express, police were investigating four international phone calls made to Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan from the Khan Market area where the victim, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the Israeli defence attaché, was having lunch prior to the attack.

Two of the calls lasted less than 90 seconds, police sources told the paper.

Investigators were awaiting forensic reports that would establish whether the same type of explosive was used in the three capitals.

There was an embarrassing moment for Delhi police when the commissioner BK Gupta informed reporters a day after the attack that he had carried out in-depth research into the sticky bomb used.

A print-out given to journalists said: "Sticky bombs are a type of explosives crafted from one Bomb and 5 Gel. At point-blank range, it can cause a total of 100 damage to mobs and 200 to the player", according to a report in the Times of India.

Unfortunately for the commissioner, his "hours" of research appear to have led him to a website describing the weapons used in computer game Terraria, an online, role-playing game.

Jewish groups have used the attacks to ramp up pressure for intensified sanctions on Iran.

The American Jewish Committee has called on India to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia and Libya rather than Iran. India currently buys around $12 billion (Dh44bn) of Iranian oil per year.

However, India's state-run oil refineries are not capable of switching between different types of crude oil, because the refineries are old and were only designed to deal with certain crude textures.

India is also dependent on Iran's Chabahar port to provide access for its development aid into Afghanistan.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an influential Indian trade body, stated yesterday that the bombing was unlikely to affect business ties, and predicted that trade would double to $30bn by 2015.

"India is a rapidly growing economy with a surging demand for commercial energy including hydrocarbons. Iran is a close ally and important economic partner of India," the organisation's secretary general, DS Rawat, told the Economic Times.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Associated Press

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