WSJ: A suspected terrorist plot in Thailand’s capital went awry Tuesday as three apparently premature explosions tore through a bustling neighborhood, wounding four bystanders and blowing off the legs of a man police suspect was an Iranian assailant.
The Wall Street Journal
BANGKOK—A suspected terrorist plot in Thailand’s capital went awry Tuesday as three apparently premature explosions tore through a bustling neighborhood, wounding four bystanders and blowing off the legs of a man police suspect was an Iranian assailant.
The explosions came amid rising tensions between Iran and Israel after a bomb attack on Israeli diplomats in India on Monday and a failed attempt on an Israeli target in Georgia. The blasts also followed an incident in Thailand last month in which police said they uncovered a haul of explosives material linked to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group.
Israel accused Iran and its supporters on Tuesday of attempting to execute a terrorist bombing in Thailand, a popular tourist destination for Israelis, especially young people finishing their military service. It is also a major hub for American and other Western expatriates.
“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror,” said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, according to a statement released by a spokesman. Israel also blamed Iran and Hezbollah for Monday’s attacks, a charge Iran rejected.
Iranian officials couldn’t be reached for comment on Tuesday. Iran’s main state media outlets reported no immediate reaction from the Iranian government.
Thai police said Tuesday’s explosions began in an apartment rented by three foreigners, at least two of whom held Iranian passports. Two of the men fled the building, while another man, bleeding heavily, threw what appeared to be an improvised bomb at a taxi after the driver refused to let him get in.
Police Maj.-Gen. Pisit Pisutsak said the injured man then attempted to throw another explosive device when he encountered a police patrol nearby. “The bomb instead dropped next to him and blew off his legs,” Gen. Pisit said. The injured man was identified as an Iranian national, Saeid Moradi. Photographs of Mr. Moradi showed him lying among debris, attempting to look around as police moved in.
Security officials detained a second Iranian at Bangkok’s international airport as he attempted to leave for Malaysia, according to Thai police. Authorities said the suspect, identified as Muhammad Hazei, was one of the men in the house when the initial blast took place.
Bomb-disposal experts were sent to the suspects’ blast-damaged house in eastern Bangkok, where at least two unexploded devices were found. Television images showed windows and doors blown out and part of the house’s roof missing, while other parts of the structure appeared charred.
Blasts Hit Bangkok
The Bangkok explosions came a day after Israel accused Iran and Hezbollah of bombing an Israeli diplomat’s car in New Delhi, while in Tbilisi, Georgia, the government said police defused a powerful explosive device found in a car belonging to an employee of the Israeli Embassy.
Iranian officials denied any involvement in Monday’s incidents, but the explosions in Thailand will likely add to the growing tension between Israel and Iran linked to what the West believes is Iran’s drive to develop a nuclear weapon, which Iran denies.
Last month, Thai police charged a Swedish national named Hussein Atris who had alleged ties to pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah with acquiring materials that could be used to make bombs, while the U.S. and Israel warned their citizens about possible terrorist attacks in Thailand.
The January incident in Thailand spurred speculation that Iran was seeking to target Israeli or U.S. interests around the world in retaliation for the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran that month.
Iranian officials accused the U.S., Israel and Britain of conspiring to kill the scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who was killed with a “sticky bomb” attached to his car, the same method used in attacks on other Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years. The U.S. and U.K. denied any role in the attack, while Israel hasn’t commented publicly.
Thailand isn’t considered a major terrorist target in itself, despite a long-running Muslim insurgency in the south of the country. But security analysts note that the country might be an attractive soft target, particular for its popularity with tourists.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters that it was too soon to conclude that Tuesday’s blasts were terrorism-related, adding that police should be given time to complete their investigations. In recent weeks she has repeatedly stressed that Thailand remains a safe tourism destination.
—Wilawan Watcharasakwet contributed to this article.