Thai police charge 2 over Bangkok blasts as Iran denies involvement


Thai bomb squad officials inspect the site of an explosion in Bangkok on February 14, 2012.

Thai bomb squad officials inspect the site of an explosion in Bangkok on February 14, 2012.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Thai official says materials used in Bangkok bombs are similar to those in India attacks
  • The authorities charge 2 Iranians in relation to the blasts in Bangkok
  • Two more people connected to the explosions are still at large, the police say
  • Iran denies accusations by Israel that it was behind the bombings

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Thai authorities on Wednesday charged two Iranians in relation to a string of blasts that hit Bangkok the day before as Tehran denied accusations by Israel that it was behind the explosions.

A Thai official also drew a tentative link between the Bangkok bombings and attacks earlier this week aimed at Israeli officials in India, saying the materials used in the explosive devices were similar.

The authorities in Thailand said they are still on the hunt for two other people, one man and one woman, in connection with the blasts in Bangkok, which wounded at least five people.

The first bomb Tuesday went off in a rental house, believed to be leased to foreigners, according to Thai authorities. After the blast, two of the men left the scene while a third detonated two more bombs — one when a taxi driver refused to give him a ride, and another when he tried to throw a bomb at police officers as they closed in on him.

The last bomb exploded near the man, blowing off one of his legs, the authorities said. He was taken to Chulalongkorn General Hospital for treatment and Iranian documents were found on him.

Another man arrested at the airport is holding an Iranian passport and is one of the two who left the scene, the Thai government said, adding that he was identified as Mohammad Hasai, 42, and was about to leave for Malaysia.

The authorities charged those two men with several offenses, including illegal possession of explosives and intent to kill a police officer, said Gen. Pansiri Prapawat, deputy police commander.

The third man and the woman, who the authorities say they believe was renting the house, are still at large. The man is believed to have left the country, possibly for Malaysia, said Thitima Chaisaeng, a spokeswoman for the Thai government.

The Israeli defense minister on Tuesday blamed Iran for the bombings in Bangkok, a day after attacks against the country’s diplomats in India and Georgia.

“The attempted terror attack in Thailand proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to operate in the ways of terror and the latest attacks are an example of that,” said the defense minister, Ehud Barak.

But Iran on Wednesday denied Barak’s accusation, state media reported.

Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, “condemned the blasts and said that Israeli agents are often the perpetrators of such terrorist acts,” Press TV said in an article on its website.

Israeli Foreign Ministry personnel based overseas have been on alert in recent weeks to the heightened possibility of attacks at Israeli facilities by Hezbollah, the Lebanese Muslim militant group and political party backed by Iran.

Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of the death of Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria. Hezbollah holds Israel responsible for his death and has vowed revenge.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the level of alert in the country had been raised following a security assessment after the overseas incidents in New Delhi and Tbilisi, the capitals of India and Georgia.

The alert means patrols will be heightened in and around various public areas inside Israel, and around Israeli embassies and offices worldwide.

In the Monday incidents, a device attached to an Israeli Embassy van in New Delhi exploded and injured four people. Another device was found on an embassy car in Tbilisi but it was safety detonated.

Iran has also denied involvement in those events, which are still being investigated.

The materials used in the Bangkok bombs had many similar characteristics to those used in India, said Wichean Potephosree, secretary-general of the Thai National Security Council.

The Israeli government issued a travel advisory this year for citizens traveling to Thailand after Thai security officials arrested a man in January connected with a planned attack in the country.

The police charged the man, Atris Hussein, after finding “initial chemical materials that could produce bombs” in an area just outside Bangkok. Police said Hussein, who also holds a Swedish passport, led them to the location.

The authorities are accusing Hussein of trying to attack spots in Bangkok that are popular with Western tourists and say he is believed to belong to Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim group active in Lebanon that the United States views as a terrorist organization.

Potephosree said Wednesday that the Thai authorities do not believe there is any link between Hussein and the blasts in Bangkok on Tuesday.