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.
The allegation came after days of strong accusations by Israel that Iran was behind the botched plot as well as two others in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia this week. Iran has denied the charges.
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, including an explosion Monday in New Delhi that tore through an Israeli diplomatic vehicle, wounding the driver and a diplomat’s wife, and a foiled attempt 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 Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said security had been stepped up for its diplomatic staff abroad.
“Obviously, security is of the essence at times like this,” Palmor said. “We are taking whatever measures are required to ensure that life and work can go on as usual.”
The plot in Bangkok was discovered Tuesday only by accident, when explosives stored in a house occupied by several Iranian men blew up by mistake.
One of the Iranians, Mohammad Kharzei, was paraded before journalists Thursday wearing a striped short-sleeve shirt, his apparently handcuffed hands covered by a dark sheet.
Prewpan said Kharzei had “partially confessed” and had acknowledged knowing one of the other suspects, Saeid Moradi, whose leg was sheered off by an explosive he was carrying as he fled police in the Thai capital’s busy Sukhumvit Road area.
Surveillance video released by police already links the suspects: it shows them 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.
Kharzei, grim-faced, did not speak as he stood before reporters, but Prewpan described him as “stressed out” and another official said he was having trouble eating.
The third Iranian, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was detained in Malaysia and the country’s federal police spokesman, Ramli Yoosuf, said he was being investigated for terrorism-related activities linked to the Bangkok blasts. The official could not say whether Sedaghatzadeh would be extradited to Thailand.
A Bangkok court has approved arrest warrants for all three suspects, as well as an Iranian woman named Leila Rohani who rented the destroyed house. However, Rohani has left Thailand and is now in Tehran, according to the top immigration police official, Lt. Gen. Wiboon Bangthamai.