Thailand: Iranians' targets were Israeli diplomats

By Thanyarat Doksone

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

CORRECTS SPELLINGS OF NAMES OF SUSPECTS SHOWN AT CENTER AND RIGHT - In this combination of images made from surveillance video on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, and released by the Spokesman Office of the National Thai Police, three Iranian bomb suspects, identified by police from left, as Saeid Moradi, Mohammad Kharzei and Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, walk down the middle of a residential street in Bangkok, Thailand, after the first blast at an explosives-filled house where the three were staying. Moradi was injured and four civilians were wounded Tuesday in a series of explosions in Bangkok.

Spokesman Office of National Thai Police, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BANGKOK — Three Iranians detained after accidentally setting off explosives in Bangkok were planning to attack Israeli diplomats, Thailand's top policeman said Thursday in the first confirmation by local officials that the group was plotting attacks in Thailand.

Israel has strongly accused Iran of being behind the botched plot, a bombing in India and an attempted bombing in the former Soviet republic of Georgia this week, which Iran has denied.

Citing the similarity of bombs used in New Delhi and Tbilisi, national police chief Gen. Prewpan Dhamapong said that Thai authorities now "know for certain that (the target) was Israeli diplomats."

"This issue was about individuals and the targets were specific," he said. "This was something personal."

Israel has accused Iran of waging a covert campaign of state terror and has threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran has blamed the Jewish state for the recent killings of Iranian atomic scientists and has denied responsibility for all three bomb plots. The explosion Monday in New Delhi tore through an Israeli diplomatic vehicle, wounding the driver and a diplomat's wife, and an attempt was foiled the same day in Georgia.

Speaking in an interview with Israel Radio during a trip to Japan, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "It's clearer to more and more of the world that Iran, which is a veteran sponsor of terror, is trying to raise the bar even more, trying to harm diplomats around the world."

Israel's U.N. ambassador said Thursday the Security Council should condemn the attacks quickly.

"Israel expects it to issue a clear condemnation today, without any further delay or equivocation," Ambassador Ron Prosor said in a letter distributed by the Israeli mission.

"This campaign bears the unmistakable fingerprints of the Iranian regime and the highest echelons of the Hezbollah leadership," his letter said. "Their actions constitute a clear threat to the security and stability of Lebanon, to the Middle East, and to the many countries that have been targeted."

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the Iranian-backed group had nothing to do with the Thailand plot, bombing in India or the attempted bombing in Georgia.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech Thursday to mark the 2008 death of Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah military commander.

There had been speculation that the attacks could be revenge for the death of Mughniyeh, who was killed by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus. Hezbollah and its primary patron, Iran, have blamed Israel for Mughniyeh's killing.

Israel has denied involvement.

"They will know when we will avenge martyr Mughniyeh. It will not be against soldiers or Israeli diplomats or civilians. This is insulting for Hezbollah," Nasrallah said, hinting that his group plans to kill senior officials.

Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said security had been stepped up for its diplomatic staff abroad. "Security is of the essence at times like this," Palmor said.

The plot in Bangkok was discovered when explosives in the men's rented house blew up by mistake Tuesday. One suspect, Mohammad Kharzei, was paraded before journalists Thursday, his apparently handcuffed hands covered by a dark sheet.

Prewpan said Kharzei had "partially confessed" and acknowledged knowing another suspect, Saeid Moradi, whose leg was sheared off by an explosion on a busy Bankgok street.

Surveillance video showed the three men leaving their destroyed house just after the first blast. Moradi was the last to exit, and as he walked out with a heavy backpack over his shoulder, a small crowd that had begun to gather backed away, clearly terrified.

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