Israel is bracing for further attempts to attack its representatives and legations overseas after an apparent Iranian terror plot in Bangkok went awry on Tuesday.
Police in Thailand have detained several members of a six-strong cell suspected of involvement in a trio of blasts on Tuesday that shook a busy Bangkok neighborhood and wounded five people.
Thai investigators on Tuesday evening reportedly told their Israeli counterparts that captured members of the bombing gang had acknowledged that they planned to hit Israeli targets. The Thai police chief at the scene said earlier it was likely that the terror plot was directed at Israeli targets. The explosions took place approximately a kilometer from the Israeli Embassy.
They came a day after an Israeli diplomatic car was bombed outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, injuring an Israeli official’s wife, and a car bombing was thwarted in Tbilisi, Georgia. The spate of attacks comes around the fourth anniversary of the assassination in Damascus of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s terror mastermind. The killing was widely blamed on Israel, and Iran and Hezbollah have frequently threatened revenge.
Police commander Winai Thongsong said immigration police detained one member of the alleged terror cell at Bangkok’s international airport Tuesday night as he was due to board a flight for neighboring Malaysia. It was later reported that another suspect, a woman, had been detained.
Earlier an Iranian man, Saeid Moradi, carrying explosives, blew off his own legs and wounded four other people in two blasts, Thai authorities said. An additional bomb was found on his body by local bomb squads. A third blast occurred in a nearby apartment, where security forces found more explosives.
Officials in Israel suggested on Tuesday that the blast in the apartment was probably a “work accident” — with bombs intended for use by the terror gang detonating prematurely.
One of the blasts in Bangkok damaged a taxi, and a grenade detonated as the assailant carried it down a sidewalk outside a Thai school, said Col. Warawut Taweechaikarn, a senior police officer in the district.
Photos of the wounded Iranian man showed him covered in dark soot on a sidewalk outside the school strewn with broken glass. A dark satchel nearby was investigated by a bomb disposal unit.
Pansiri said a passport found at the scene confirmed the man was Saeid Moradi from Iran.
There were reports that Moradi had fled the apartment with hand grenades and other explosives, and that he first threw a hand grenade into the street. He then threw a second grenade — some sources said he aimed it at a policeman; others said it hit a tree — and it bounced back at him, blowing his legs off.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday had blamed Iran for the New Delhi blast and for a thwarted attack on the car of a local staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. Iran immediately denied the charge and claimed Israel had bombed its own targets as part of a psychological war against the Islamic Republic. Israeli officials said Tuesday that the fact that a man of indisputable Iranian citizenship had blown himself up in Bangkok meant that Iran could not evade responsibility.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who happened to pass through Bangkok International Airport on Monday en route to Singapore, described Iran and Hezbollah as relentless terrorist entities that “endanger the region and the world.”
Three Thai men and one Thai woman were brought to Kluaynamthai Hospital for treatment of injuries, Suwinai Busarakamwong, a doctor there, said.
The third blast occurred inside a rented house on the same road, busy with businesses and apartment blocks.
Last month, a Lebanese-Swedish man with alleged links to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants was detained by Thai police. He led authorities to a warehouse filled with more than 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms) of urea fertilizer and several gallons of liquid ammonium nitrate.
Israel and the United States at the time warned their citizens to be alert in the capital, but Thai authorities said Thailand appeared to have been a staging ground but not the target of any attack.
Pansiri said that “so far, we haven’t found any links between these two cases.”
He said Moradi had been renting the house in Bangkok with two other unidentified foreigners. Immigration police are trying to trace Moradi’s movements, but initial reports indicated he had at least traveled to Bangkok from the southern Thai resort town of Phuket on February 8.
Bangkok’s blasts came one day after bombs targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia. The attack in India wounded four people, while the device found in Georgia did not explode.
Israeli police have increased the state of alert in the country, emphasizing public places, foreign embassies and offices, as well as Ben Gurion International Airport. Security alerts have been raised at Israeli legations overseas, amid fears of further attacks.
AP contributed to this report.
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