Attacks on fourth anniversary of Mughniyeh assassination

PM blames Iran for New Delhi terror attack; security alert raised at overseas legations

Israeli embassy staffer injured in blast now out of surgery; bombing thwarted in Tbilisi; Clinton condemns attacks while Iran claims Israel blew up its own targets

Tal Yehoshua Koren was injured in an attack in New Delhi while in her car. (photo credit: AP, Facebook)
Tal Yehoshua Koren was injured in an attack in New Delhi while in her car. (photo credit: AP, Facebook)

An Israeli Embassy staffer was moderately injured outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi on Monday afternoon, when a terrorist on a motorbike attached an explosive device to the rear of her car and detonated it.

The woman, Tal Yehoshua Koren, underwent hours of surgery on Monday afternoon and evening, to have shrapnel removed from her back and legs; she was in recovery late Monday night and her family said she had had a “miraculous” escape.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said the car’s local driver was also injured, as were two other locals. Yehoshua Koren, 42, is married to the Israeli defense attache at the embassy, Alon Yehoshua.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the blast and for a thwarted bombing in Tbilisi, Georgia, at almost the same time. He described Iran as the world’s leading exporter of terrorism and vowed firm, “systematic” action to counter it. “Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world,” he said.

Also Minister of Defense Ehud Barak blamed Iran for the terror attacks, while speaking in Singapore on Tuesday.

Israel raised security at its overseas legations in the wake of the attacks. Israeli security officials have now told diplomats and government workers overseas to refrain from using their private cars. Security officials reportedly fear this could be the start of a wave of attacks against Israeli targets overseas.

Iran denied responsibility for the blasts; its Foreign Ministry spokesman in Tehran claimed Israel had bombed its own embassies, “to tarnish Iran’s friendly ties with the host countries.” Israel was engaged in “psychological warfare against Iran,” the spokesman said.

Indian security and forensic officials examine a car belonging to the Israel Embassy after an explosion tore through the vehicle in New Delhi on Monday. (photo credit: AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi)
Indian security and forensic officials examine a car belonging to the Israel Embassy after an explosion tore through the vehicle in New Delhi on Monday. (photo credit: AP/Mustafa Quraishi)

Yehoshua Koren was on her way to collect her children from kindergarten when attacked.

The blast took place just after 3 p.m. a few hundred yards from the prime minister’s residence as she headed to the American Embassy School to pick up her children, said Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta.

When the vehicle approached a crossing, she noticed a motorcyclist ride up and stick something on it that appeared to be a magnetic device, he said. The car drove a short distance, there was a loud sound and then an explosion, and the car caught fire, he said.

“It was a loud explosion. We realized it’s not a firecracker, but an explosion, and rushed toward the car,” said Ravi Singh, owner of a nearby gas station.

The blast left the vehicle charred and appeared to blow out its rear door.

“The blast was so powerful, the car behind got damaged as well,” said Monu, a high school student.

“Everything happened within seconds,” Yehoshua Koren’s brother, Ido Koren, told Yedioth Ahronoth. “She grasped the situation, showed resourcefulness, managed to get out of the car and evacuated herself to the hospital despite her injury.”

Yehoshua Koren immediately called the embassy to report the incident. Some reports said she evacuated herself to the local private American hospital in a rickshaw; other reports said she went to the embassy and was taken to hospital from there.

She underwent extensive surgery to extract shrapnel from her body. At least one Israeli doctor who happened to be in the city assisted in the surgery.

“She possesses amazing level-headedness; not everyone would have conducted themselves this way,” her brother said. “The motorcyclist managed to get away, but the most important thing is for Tal to feel better, and we’re praying for it.”

Television footage showed a charred SUV with diplomatic plates. The injured driver, Manoj Sharma, 42, reportedly spoke of a “magnetic object” being affixed.

Israeli diplomats in India have been on constant alert since Pakistan-based militants rampaged across the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, targeting luxury hotels, a train station and the Chabad Jewish community center.

The embassy is in a high-security zone. New Delhi’s anti-terror squad is handling the investigation. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said “cooperation with local security forces is excellent.”

India’s foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, said India would cooperate closely with Israel in the investigation and promised to bring the assailants to justice. “I have just spoken to the Israeli foreign minister,” he said. “I assured him that the law of the land will take its course.”

In Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry said an attempted bombing in Georgia was thwarted some 25 minutes before the India attack.

Authorities in the former Soviet republic said an explosive device was planted on the car of a Georgian staffer at the Israeli Embassy in Tbilisi.

Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, said the local staffer, having dropped off his children at school, noticed a package attached to his car’s undercarriage on his way to work and called police. Police found a grenade in the package and it was defused, Utiashvili said.

The New Delhi blast came on the fourth anniversary of the killing of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. Israel was blamed for that attack, but denied involvement.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, addressing his Israel Beiteinu party’s Knesset faction, said that Israel “knows how to identify those behind the attack and will not stand idly by.”

Hezbollah recently marked the anniversary of the 2008 assassination of Mughniyeh, in a bombing widely believed to have been carried out by Israel. And Iran suspects Israeli involvement in a series of killings of officials and scientists involved in its controversial nuclear program.

Speculation will undoubtedly be raised over the possibility of Iranian-linked payback for assassinations of nuclear scientists and other covert plots that Tehran has blamed on the Mossad and Western allies. Monday’s New Delhi attack, featuring assailants affixing explosives to a vehicle, was similar in style to some of the attacks on Iranian scientists.

Last month, a director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment site was killed in a blast from a magnetic bomb placed on his car. The official, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was at least the fifth member of Iran’s scientific community killed in apparent targeted attacks in the past two years.

Iran accused Israel of being behind those attacks. Later, Iran’s official news agency IRNA said it had “evidence” of alleged US and British involvement in the Roshan killing.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned Monday’s attacks, as did the European Union.

“The United States places a high priority on the safety and security of diplomatic personnel around the world and we stand ready to assist with any investigation of these cowardly actions,” Clinton said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the incidents underscore U.S. concerns about the recent targeting of Israeli interests overseas. He added that Washington does not yet have information on who is responsible for the attack but stands ready to help the investigations.

Iranian lawmaker Javad Jahangirzadeh was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency as saying the Israeli charges were meant to provoke the world against Iran and to undermine upcoming nuclear talks between Tehran and the world powers.

Another lawmaker, Avaz Heidarpour, was quoted by Mehr as saying Netanyahu’s allegations were an attempt by Israel to justify future operations against Iran.

“It’s very likely that the Zionist regime is paving the way to carry out an assassination abroad or hit inside Iran. So, they are making preparations for that,” Mehr quoted him as saying.

AP contributed to this report.


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