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Thailand charges two Iranians over Bangkok blasts

Thai authorities on Wednesday charged two Iranian nationals in connection with a bomb attack in the Thai capital a day earlier that Israel blamed on Iran. The incident followed attempted attacks on Israeli diplomats in Tbilisi and New Delhi.


AFP - Thailand charged two Iranians Wednesday over an alleged bomb plot against Israeli diplomats, officials said, piling pressure on Tehran amid accusations of a terror campaign against the Jewish state.

Tensions between the Middle East arch-foes have risen sharply following three bomb incidents in world capitals in less than 24 hours, but Iran angrily rejected accusations that it was to blame.

On Monday bombers targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia before escaping.

In Bangkok, two Iranians were detained over three blasts which rattled the city Tuesday. They were charged with causing an illegal explosion and other offences, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.

"We cannot say yet if it's a terrorist act," he told reporters, "but it's similar to the assassination attempt against a diplomat in India."

One of the men -- named as 28-year-old Saeid Morati -- had his legs blown off as he hurled an explosive device at Thai police while fleeing an earlier, apparently unintended, blast at a house in the Thai capital, officials said.

He was unconscious but in a stable condition, according to the Bangkok hospital where he was treated.

A second Iranian suspect was detained trying to board a flight out of the country while a third suspect is believed to have fled to Malaysia, they said.

"These three Iranian men are an assassination team and their targets were Israeli diplomats including the ambassador," a senior Thai intelligence official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Their plan was to attach bombs to diplomats' cars."

Israel accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia on Monday.

An Israeli diplomat in New Delhi suffered grave shrapnel wounds when a motorbike assailant attached a bomb to her car on Monday.

Iran, which has already denied responsibility for the Delhi and Tbilisi incidents, said it had no link to the Bangkok blasts and blamed what it called "elements linked with the (Israeli) Zionist regime".

Observers, however, noted that the use of motorbike assassins to blow up targets' cars closely mirrored the method used to murder nuclear scientists in Iran in the past two years, raising the possibility of Iranian payback and a vicious covert war between the Middle East foes.

Thai police said explosives and magnets were found inside the house in a residential area of Bangkok where the first blast occurred, shattering windows and causing the roof of the building to collapse.

"I saw two Middle Eastern looking men covered with blood run out from the house," said Da Klond, a housemaid living opposite. "Broken glass was thrown across the street and fell in our garden."

Bangkok has been on the watch for a terror attack since police last month charged a Lebanese man suspected of planning a strike, following a US warning that tourist areas might be targeted.

Thai authorities alleged the Lebanese man had links to Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite group that is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

Israel was quick to accuse Iran of involvement in Tuesday's blasts in Bangkok.

"The attempted attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies are continuing to act in the ways of terror and the latest attacks are an example of that," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

Israel's ambassador to Thailand, Itzhak Shoham, told AFP that the Bangkok suspects appeared to be "part of the same network" that targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia.

The United States condemned the Bangkok blasts and voiced concern about a worldwide "uptick" in such violence, including some with alleged links to Iran.

The terror scare is another blow to the kingdom's tourist-friendly image, which was badly dented last year by devastating flooding as well as rounds of rival political protests in recent years.

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