Thai officials say blasts linked to global political tensions

Thai officials say blasts linked to global political tensions

Thailand's top officials tried to calm anxiety today over the triple explosions here with the Defence Minister saying they should not be construed as terror attacks, and another official linking them to global political tensions.

Thai police arrested two Iranian men after the dramatic unfoldings in central Bangkok yesterday, when a bomb possibly being assembled by three Iranians went off in a house.

"Yesterday's incident was caused by current international tensions in world politics," National Security Council Secretary General Wichean Potephosree told a news conference.

"It's happening not only in Thailand but also elsewhere," he said as Israel accused Iran of attacking its targets following attacks in Georgian and Indian capitals. Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, meanwhile said in his view, "the bad men were trying to assemble bombs which led to the explosions".

While two Iranians fled the scene, a third named Saeid Moradi, had his legs blown away when he tried to throw a grenade at police that fell on ground and backfired on him.

The police took Moradi to hospital while another Iranian was arrested at the airport as he was trying to flee to Malaysia. The third is still at large. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged the public not to panic over three explosions saying police and intelligence agencies were investigating the case.

Meanwhile, the Thai Foreign Ministry has sought cooperation from Iran to check backgrounds of the three men who rented the Sukhumvit 71 house that was the centre of the incident.

The Deputy Prime Minister's Secretary-General Thitima Chaisaeng said the Foreign Ministry has asked the Iranian government to checked the three Iranian men's backgrounds to see whether they belonged to a terrorist group and why they entered Thailand.

The explosions came a day after bombers targeted Israeli embassy staff in New Delhi and Tblisi. Israel immediately blamed Iran for the attacks but Tehran denied any links to the attacks, and in turn accused "elements linked with the Zionist regime" of trying to harm the friendly and historic relations between Iran and Thailand.

The US Embassy in Thailand has issued a statement, alerting its citizens to maintain a heightened awareness when in public following the series of explosions in Bangkok.

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

The British Foreign Office has also issued a travel advisory for Thailand, especially in six provinces including Bangkok, following the three explosions. Meanwhile, reports from the beach resort town of Pattaya said that the Iranian bomb suspect Moradi, 28, had checked-in to Top Thai hotel in Pattaya on Feb 8 late at night with a backpack.
Shortly afterwards, he called a friend who arrived at the hotel with a large piece of luggage.

"We usually have no idea what the guests bring in," one hotel employee was quoted in the media as saying, adding that since both men were well presented and polite, hotel employees did not pay them much attention.

"Mr Moradi was good-looking and dressed neatly, as if he was a young entrepreneur," said the worker. "He was also polite and I can't believe that he would be a bomber," he said.