Two Iranians arrested in connection with Thailand bomb blasts

Two Iranians arrested in connection with Thailand bomb blasts

Thai police arrested two Iranians and were searching for two other suspects after bomb blasts in Bangkok yesterday that the U.S. linked to other attacks this week against Israel, Bloomberg reported.

Two men with Iranian passports are in custody and evidence shows they aimed to target individuals instead of groups, according to Wichien Potephosree, secretary-general of the Thai National Security Council. The suspects planned to assassinate Israeli diplomats, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a Thai intelligence official it didn't identify.

"The problems on international politics have affected us as well as other countries," Wichien told reporters in Bangkok today, adding that authorities have yet to link the suspects to any organization. "Thailand is a soft spot because we welcome foreigners to promote our tourism and economy."

Yesterday's explosions followed car-bomb attacks Feb. 13 on Israeli diplomats in the capitals of India and Georgia that Israel has blamed on Iranian-backed terrorism. Israeli leaders have said time is running out for sanctions to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons and haven't ruled out a military strike, while the U.S. and Europe have tightened sanctions.

Wichien said a third suspect may have fled the country and police are also searching for an Iranian woman who helped the men rent the house in Bangkok. Thai authorities tightened security at immigration checkpoints and "important places," and have asked neighboring countries for assistance, he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok warned on Jan. 13 that "foreign terrorists" aimed to attack tourist areas in Bangkok. Three days later Thai police charged a Swedish-Lebanese man they said was linked to Hezbollah with possessing illegal substances after detaining him in connection with a plan to attack sites frequented by Americans and Israelis.

The U.S. and U.K. warned citizens traveling in Thailand to remain vigilant after yesterday's attacks. The explosives used contained magnets and were designed to target individuals, Police Chief Priewphan Damaphong told reporters.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said yesterday it was too early to assume terrorists were to blame for the blasts and urged the public not to panic.

U.S. officials are waiting for the results of an investigation into the Thailand, India and Georgia attacks, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.

"These events do come on the heels of other disrupted attacks targeted at Israel and Western interests," Nuland said, according to a transcript on the State Department's website. "So they serve as a reminder that a variety of states and non- state actors continue to view international terrorism as a legitimate foreign policy tool, which we consider reprehensible."

One suspect blew his legs off and police made a second arrest last night at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport as the man attempted to leave for Malaysia, said police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri.

The Thai incident began when an explosion at the suspects' rented home in Bangkok prompted them to flee, with one attempting to hail a taxi to escape the area, Sittipab Baiprasert, a police officer, said in an interview with the Nation Channel television network. When a taxi refused to take him, he threw a grenade at the vehicle, he said.

Sanchai Boonsoongnern, a taxi driver who witnessed the incident, told the Nation Channel the device exploded about 1 meter (3.3 feet) from his car. As a policeman then tried to arrest the man, the suspect pulled out another grenade and it detonated, blowing off his legs, Sanchai said.

Police found C-4 explosives in the house the three men were renting, TNN television network reported, without saying where it got the information. A nearby closed circuit television camera showed the three suspects leaving the house after the first explosion, it said.

Iran denied any connection to the bombing of an embassy vehicle in New Delhi that injured an Israeli diplomat's wife yesterday and a bomb planted under an Israeli diplomatic car in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi that was discovered before it could be detonated.

Edited by: S. Isayev

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