Boonradom Chitradon, AFP
Last updated: 15 February, 2012

Thai official: Iranian Bangkok bombers targeted Israeli diplomats

Iran’s “terrorist activities” have been exposed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday after blasts in India and Thailand sent tension between the arch-foes soaring.

Israel has blamed Iran for two bombs targeting its diplomats in India and Georgia on Monday, as well as for a series of botched explosions in Bangkok on Tuesday that Thai intelligence officials said were aimed at top Israeli diplomats.

have denied any involvement in the blasts, one of which badly wounded an Israeli woman in New Delhi.

Thailand on Wednesday charged two Iranians in connection with the Bangkok blasts, one of whom had his legs blown off when he tried to hurl a bomb at police.

“At this time, Iran’s terrorist activities have been exposed to everyone,” Netanyahu said, accusing Tehran of “harming innocent diplomats across the world.”

“Nations of the world must condemn these incidents and draw red lines against this Iranian aggression,” he warned. “Aggression like this, if it is not stopped, will end up in spreading.”

Israel’s security cabinet was later briefed on Iran’s “involvement in repeated attempts to strike at Israeli targets” around the world, and also reviewed unspecified “preventive steps against the Iranian terror campaign,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Beny Gantz said after a military ceremony that “we remain determined to face these threats. We are ready to meet all challenges.”

With international concern growing over the tension between the Jewish state and the Islamic republic, Japan on Wednesday urged Israel not to take military action against Iran.

At a meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tokyo, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said a military strike could be “extremely dangerous,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

On Monday, an Israeli embassy car was blown up in New Delhi, but a similar bomb attached to another embassy car in Tbilisi was found before it detonated.

Less than 24 hours later, three blasts shook Bangkok, with police arresting two of the would-be bombers whom officials said had been planning to attack Israeli targets.

The two men were charged with causing an illegal explosion and other offences.

The injured suspect was unconscious but stable at a Bangkok hospital, while the second man was caught trying to fly out of the country.

A third Iranian was later arrested by Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpur.

A statement from Barak’s office quoted him as telling Noda that he had been in Bangkok on a stopover two days before the attack there.

“On instructions from Iran over the past days a series of attacks were carried out which once again illustrate the danger from Iran and its responsibility for undermining world order,” Barak said.

A senior Thai intelligence official told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that the men arrested had planned to assassinate Israeli diplomats.

“These three Iranian men are an assassination team and their targets were Israeli diplomats including the ambassador,” he said.

“Their plan was to attach bombs to diplomats’ cars.”

The violence has put a spotlight firmly on a covert war between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s contested nuclear programme, with commentators suggesting it was meant to avenge the murder of four Iranian scientists whose deaths were blamed on Israel.

Despite Iran’s denials of involvement, observers said the use of motorbike assassins to blow up targets’ cars with magnetic bombs closely mirrored the method used to murder nuclear scientists in Iran in the past two years.

Thai police said explosives and magnets were found inside a house used by the suspects.

“We believe Tehran is behind these recent attacks because the modus operandi used in New Delhi and Tbilisi is the same as that used in the recent assassinations of Iranian scientists,” said Boaz Ganor, an Israeli expert in counter terrorism at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre.

“That is a way of Iran putting its signature on the attacks and in that way, sending a message aimed at deterring Israel,” he told AFP.

Former Mossad official Mickey Segal told AFP the attacks would definitely strengthen Israel’s hand in the diplomatic offensive against Iran.

“All these things help the strategic environment which is building against Iran as a terror-supporting state,” said Segal.

“Obviously if you catch a person with an Iranian passport, it greatly helps the Israeli-Western narrative against Iran.”

Meanwhile, Iran on Wednesday said it had made fresh progress in advancing its disputed nuclear programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiled what was billed as Tehran’s first domestically-produced, 20-percent enriched nuclear fuel for its research reactor.

He also said Tehran had installed 3,000 more centrifuges to increase its uranium enrichment abilities.