Thai police said they arrested a second Iranian following an attack with explosives in Bangkok carried out by a man who blew his legs off as he and two others tried to escape.
The second arrest was made at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport last night as the man attempted to leave for Malaysia, police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said by phone. U.S. officials are waiting for the results of an investigation into the incident, which Israel blamed on Iran, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
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. It also comes a month after the U.S. Embassy warned that “foreign terrorists” aimed to attack tourist areas in Bangkok.
“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.”
Thai police last month 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 man injured yesterday was identified as Saci Morabi, 50, the Nation newspaper reported, citing Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Pisit Pisutsak.
“The one who is seriously injured is Iranian,” government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisang said by phone yesterday, citing information given to her by police. “We think the others are also Iranian because they lived in the same house.”
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.
“The presence of one Iranian and other foreigners in a home extensively damaged by an explosion will raise concerns, particularly given the small bomb attacks against Israeli diplomatic targets in India and Georgia,” PSA Asia, a Bangkok- based risk consulting company, said in a note. “Media induced panic has washed over some areas of Bangkok, with bomb scares reported at Siam Paragon shopping center and elsewhere.”
Thailand’s SET Index (SET) fell 1 percent yesterday, the second- biggest decline in Asia after Sri Lanka, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The baht was little changed.
Reports that the alleged perpetrator of the Bangkok blasts possessed an Iranian passport may lend credence to Israeli allegations that Iran is waging an international campaign, Will Hartley, Head of the Terrorism & Insurgency Centre at at defense researcher IHS Jane’s, said in an e-mail.
“However, the attacks in India, Georgia and now Thailand have all been highly amateurish, and lack the sophistication that would normally be expected from an operation executed by either” Hezbollah or Iran, Hartley said.
Israeli police elevated alerts yesterday across the country following the assaults against diplomats in India and Georgia, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the events in Thailand bolstered the case for blaming Iran.
“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror,” Barak said in comments e-mailed by his office.
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, 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.
Photo: Thai bomb squad officials inspect the site of an explosion in Bangkok on February 14, 2012. Photographer: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images