Three Iranians have been named by Indian police as suspects in an attack on an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, the first time Iran has been firmly linked to the bombing, reports said Thursday.
The men entered the country on tourist visas and left after the assassination attempt in the centre of the Indian capital on February 13 that badly wounded a female embassy worker, The Times of India and The Indian Express reported.
“They had entered the country during different times and did not leave together,” an unnamed security source told The Indian Express. “We have their travel details.”
The reports, based on anonymous police and intelligence agency sources, said police had asked a local court for warrants for the men and their names would be given to the Iranian government.
Last week, a veteran Indian freelance journalist called Syed Mohammed Kazmi who worked part-time for Iran’s news agency IRNA became the first person arrested in connection with the attack.
He is accused of providing logistical support for the plotters and a bike used for reconnaissance of the embassy was allegedly found at his house in an upmarket area of the Indian capital.
In the attack, a hitman on a rented motorbike attached a magnetic bomb to the back of an Israeli embassy car carrying the 42-year-old diplomat as she went to pick up her children from school.
The woman, also the wife of the defence attache at the embassy, was left in a critical condition with spinal injuries and has since been flown to Israel for further treatment.
Israel immediately accused Iran of being behind the bombing which came on the same day as another attempted attack on an Israeli embassy car in Georgia.
A day later, Thai police arrested two Iranian men in Bangkok who are suspected of planning a separate attack on Israeli diplomats. One of them had his legs blown off as he attempted to hurl an explosive device at police.
A third Iranian suspect was detained in Malaysia where authorities on Thursday applied for a court order to extradite him to Thailand to face trial.
Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, who says he is a car parts dealer who visited Thailand for a holiday, was arrested at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport and denies any involvement in the plot.
The Iranian government also denied any involvement in the conspiracies in the three countries.
As well as the alleged involvement of Iranians, security analysts have also stressed the similarity of the method used for the attack in India — a magnetic car bomb — to the technique used to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
Over the last two years, three scientists and a physicist have been killed in bombings which Tehran has blamed on the Israeli and US secret services.
News of an apparent Iran link in India comes at a delicate moment for New Delhi as it pushes for greater trade with the Islamic republic while trying to balance a key relationship with arms supplier Israel.
Indian police had until now declined to confirm widespread speculation that the main suspects were Iranian.
A team of Indian businessmen and government officials began a five-day trade trip to Iran at the weekend aimed at expanding exports, a move that runs contrary to European and US-led efforts to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.
India has refused to go along with unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington and Brussels, risking the wrath of the Israeli government which views the Iranian nuclear programme as a threat to the country’s existence.
The newspaper reports said the three suspects came to New Delhi about two weeks before the attack and stayed in a hotel in a backpacker area of the capital.