Thailand boosts security after blasts

2012-02-16 13:47
Detained Iranian Mohammad Kharzei at the immigration headquarters in Bangkok. (Sakchai Lalit, AP)

Detained Iranian Mohammad Kharzei at the immigration headquarters in Bangkok. (Sakchai Lalit, AP)

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Bangkok - Tourist magnet Thailand has tightened security after a failed bomb plot in Bangkok, officials said on Thursday, as Israel accused regional foe Iran of unleashing a terror campaign in world capitals.

The kingdom has found itself caught up in a war of words between the Jewish state and Tehran, with Israel blaming the Islamic republic for a series of botched explosions in the Thai capital on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a spate of blasts in India and Thailand had exposed Iran's "terrorist activities".

"Nations of the world must condemn these incidents and draw red lines against this Iranian aggression," he added.

Thai authorities said they had stepped up security at embassies and tourist areas, but said Israeli diplomats rather than the general public were thought to have been the target of the failed plot.

Thai police chief Phrewphan Damapong said that Israeli diplomats were the intended target of the botched plot, which came to light following an apparently unintended explosion at a house in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Extradition

Thailand charged two Iranians on Wednesday in connection with the third bomb incident to shake world capitals in less than 24 hours, but Tehran has rejected Israeli accusations that it is behind a terror campaign.

Bangkok is seeking the extradition of a third suspect arrested on Wednesday in Malaysia after fleeing the kingdom.

"We will expedite the process," Phrewphan said.

One of the fleeing Iranian suspects had his legs blown off as he hurled an explosive device at Thai police, officials said.

Israel accused Iran over the Bangkok plot, as well as 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.

Magnets

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 said the use of motorbike assassins to blow up targets' cars with magnetic bombs closely mirrored the method used to murder nuclear scientists in Iran in the past two years.

Thai police said explosives and magnets were found inside a house used by the suspects.

Adding to jitters in the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday said it had made fresh progress in advancing its disputed nuclear programme.

With international concern growing over the tension between Israel and Iran, Japan on Wednesday urged the Jewish state not to take military action against Iran.

Surveillance

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.

Authorities said on Thursday they had boosted police patrols at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the main gateway into the kingdom, whose tourist-friendly image has been tested by a series of security scares as well as last year's devastating floods.

"We are stepping up overall surveillance and will focus on passengers behaving suspiciously as well as abandoned luggage or packages," said airport director Somchai Sawasdeepon.

Hotels have also been put on alert, particularly in major tourist destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui, while countries including Britain and the United States have urged their nationals to be vigilant.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  iran  |  thailand  |  iran nuclear programme  |  security  |  nuclear
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