Thailand arrests 3 Iranians over Bangkok bombings, 4th suspect wanted

Thai bomb squad officials inspect the site of an explosion in Bangkok on Feb. 14, 2012.</p>

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

Thailand has arrested three Iranians suspected of plotting a bomb attack in the capital Bangkok on Tuesday, in which five people were injured.

According to Al Jazeera, Thailand's Foreign Minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, confirmed the arrests on Wednesday.

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"They are charged with causing an illegal explosion in a public area and attempting to kill police officers and members of the public," Surapong said.

He added that investigators were examining a possible link between the explosion in Bangkok and Monday's blast in the Indian capital New Delhi, as well as a failed attack on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in Tblisi.

Israel earlier claimed that Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah were behind all three attacks. The Israeli ambassador to Thailand, Itzhak Shoha, told the Associated Press that Thai police had found and defused two magnetic bombs that could be stuck on vehicles, like the one used in the New Delhi attack.

"They are similar to the ones used in Delhi and in Tbilisi," Shoham said. "From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror."

A senior Thai security official confirmed that magnets were used in both the Bangkok and New Delhi explosions, but stressed that it was too early to say whether the devices were linked. The explosives found in Bangkok were intended to target individuals rather than large crowds or buildings, added National Security Council chief Wichean Potephosree.

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Reuters named one of the Iranian suspects as Saeid Morati, 28, and reports that he had his legs blown off when he hurled a grenade at Thai police while fleeing an earlier blast at a house in Bangkok. He is believed to have shared the rented property with two other men.

"These three Iranian men are an assassination team and their targets were Israeli diplomats including the ambassador," an unnamed senior Thai intelligence official is quoted as saying.

One man was detained at Bangkok airport yesterday, according to Reuters, while a third managed to board a flight to Malaysia. He was arrested Wednesday in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, as he attempted to board a plane for Iran, local newspaper The Star reported.

A fourth suspect, a woman seen frequenting the rented house, is still at large. According to the BBC, police believe she left Thailand earlier this month.

Iran has already denied responsibility for the attacks in New Delhi and Tbilisi incidents and says it had no link to the Bangkok blasts. Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the allegations were "baseless" and accused Israel of trying to damage "friendly and historic relations" between Iran and Thailand.

According to one terrorism expert cited by the New York Times, none of the attacks are consistent with the typical mode of operation by Iranian or Hezbollah agents. 

"The attacks in India, Georgia and now Thailand have all been highly amateurish, and lack the sophistication that would normally be expected from an operation" by either Hezbollah or Iran's external operations wing, the Quds Force, said Will Hartley, the editor of Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center in London.

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