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After Israeli warning, Thailand said to be on high alert for potential Iranian spies

Local Thai reports say police on lookout for Iran nationals, as Israel said to mull expanding travel warning amid fears of Tehran revenge plot

Illustrative: Police stand outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall where a mass shooting took place, on February 9, 2020, in the Thai northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima. (Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)
Illustrative: Police stand outside the Terminal 21 shopping mall on February 9, 2020 in the Thai northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima. (Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

Thai police are reportedly on high alert over the potential presence of Iranian spies in the southeastern Asian country, as Israel warns that Tehran could be targeting its citizens abroad as part of a revenge plot.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, as well as other local media outlets, the Royal Thai Police issued a “secret order” to police officers nationwide to be on the lookout for “Iranian spies,” citing the arrest of an Iranian national in Indonesia last year suspected of plotting attacks.

The newspaper cited a police source saying that Thai security agencies are closely monitoring the movement of Iranian nationals who are believed to be operating as spies in Thailand. Thailand is a popular tourist destination for Israeli travelers, in particular among fresh veterans of the Israel Defense Forces who often take off for several months.

Last week Israel issued a rare direct warning to Israelis traveling or planning to travel to Turkey that they could be targeted by Iranian operatives seeking to avenge the recent assassination of a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In an unusual move, the National Security Council explicitly identified “Iranian terrorist operatives” as being the source of the threat to Israelis in Turkey and nearby countries.

Channel 12 news reported on Sunday that Israel is considering expanding the travel warning to additional countries amid concerns of an Iranian revenge attack.

Iran has a history of attacking or attempting to attack Israelis traveling abroad. The assassinated officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, had reportedly help plan attacks against Israelis and Jews worldwide, including a series of 2012 attempted bombings of Israeli envoys.

People walk past a banner showing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei who was killed on Sunday, prior to his funeral ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, May 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Last year, six people in Cyprus believed to be affiliated with the Iranian proxy Hezbollah were arrested in a plot to target Israelis there. In April, Hebrew media reports indicated that the Mossad spy agency foiled an Iranian attempt to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working at the consulate in Istanbul.

According to Channel 12, Israel believes the Iranians have an increased motivation to launch attacks on Israeli targets at the moment, with the IRGC seeking to restore deterrence both within its borders and overseas.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Israel, which has not officially commented on the incident, reportedly raised the security alert level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory Iranian attack.

An unnamed intelligence official told The New York Times that Israel told US officials it was behind Khodaei’s assassination. However, this was later denied by a senior Israeli lawmaker.

Since Khodaei was killed, another officer in the Quds Force — which oversees the IRGC’s overseas operations — has died in unclear circumstances, as have an engineer at a military site and a scientist who was reportedly involved in developing missiles and drones.

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