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Indian police hunt 2 suspects dropped off by cab nearby

Note at Israel embassy blast scene cites Fakhrizadeh, Soleimani deaths — report

Letter found nearby reportedly claims Friday’s New Delhi explosion was just a ‘trailer’; 2nd claim on Telegram by unknown group says device targeted Indian government, not Israel

Police close off a street after an explosion near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)
Police close off a street after an explosion near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

A letter found close to the scene of a blast outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi cited the killings of an Iranian commander and nuclear chief, according to Indian media reports on Saturday.

The Siasat Daily said that a letter found near the scene of the explosion spoke of the deaths of “martyrs” Qassem Soleimani — Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander who was killed in a January 2020 United States drone strike — and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, killed in a November 2020 attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The letter reportedly also said the explosion was just a “trailer,” implying there was more to come.

“This is a trailer. We can end your life, anytime, anywhere,” the letter read, according to the Times of India.

While Israeli TV speculated that Iran could be behind the incident, as it has been blamed for previous attacks on Israeli embassies, Channel 13 said on Friday that it appeared to be a “very primitive” attack, damaging cars but causing no injuries, and did not seem to be the work of a “sophisticated terror cell.”

Some unconfirmed Indian media reports Saturday claimed police had detained and questioned some Iranian nationals in New Delhi.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassinated top nuclear scientist during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Police were said to be examining CCTV footage which appeared to show two suspects who were wanted for questioning over possible involvement in the blast. The taxi driver who dropped the two near the scene has been questioned, the Times of India reported.

Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka told the country’s PTI news agency that staff had not been caught by surprise, as Israeli missions have been on high alert for weeks, preparing for the possibility of an attack.

“We had increased the level of alert, so we were very much prepared and secure and protected,” Malka said. “Our assumption as of now is that we have enough reasons to believe that this was a terrorist attack targeted at the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi.”

He said Indian authorities were leading the investigation, but “whatever assistance we can provide, whatever we can share, we will do that.”

The Walla news site said Saturday that a previously unheard of group called “Jaish ul-Hind” took responsibility for the Friday explosion in a claim on the Telegram messaging service.

According to the report, the statement said the attack was in fact an act of revenge against the Indian government and that further attacks were expected, but with no mention of Israel.

Policemen stand guard near the Israeli Embassy after a blast in the area in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rishi Lekhi)

A police statement described the Friday explosion as caused by a “very low-intensity improvised device” that blew out the windows on three nearby cars and said a preliminary investigation “suggests a mischievous attempt to create a sensation.”

Israeli authorities were treating the explosion as a suspected terror attack aimed at the embassy, The Times of Israel has learned, and were stepping up security precautions at missions around the world.

“The assessment is that this was an attempted attack aimed at the embassy this evening,” Ambassador Ron Malka later told Channel 12 News on Friday, adding that the blast went off “a few dozen meters from the embassy walls.”

The New Delhi Television news channel said the explosive device had ball bearings wrapped in a plastic bag and was left on the pavement outside the embassy.

Channel 12 reported that Israeli explosive experts and the Mossad intelligence agency would be involved in the investigation.

Policemen stand guard near the Israeli Embassy after a blast in the area in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Israeli missions have already been on alert around the world in the wake of the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist in November of last year. Tehran has blamed Israel and promised revenge.

In 2012 the wife of Israel’s defense attaché to India was moderately injured after a motorcyclist attached a bomb to her car near Israel’s New Delhi embassy. Iran was suspected in the attack.

The car that was carrying Tal Yehoshua Koren burns outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, February 2012 (photo credit: Joji Philip Thomas, via Twitter)
File: A car that was carrying Tal Yehoshua Koren burns outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, February 2012 (Joji Philip Thomas, via Twitter)

It was part of a series of attempted attacks against Israeli targets around the world attributed to Iran. The same day as the 2012 New Delhi blast, a bomb was discovered on an Israeli diplomat’s car in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The next day, three Iranians accidentally blew up their house in Thailand.

There was speculation that those incidents were in response to Israel’s alleged assassinations of multiple Iranian nuclear scientists as Jerusalem fought to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

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