BANGKOK (Reuters) - An Iranian man was seriously wounded in Bangkok on Tuesday when a bomb he was carrying exploded and blew one of his legs off in an incident Israel said was an attempted terrorist attack by Iran.
Shortly beforehand, there had been an explosion in a house the man was renting in the Ekamai area of central Bangkok. Soon after that, there was a third blast on a nearby road, Thai police and officials said.
“The police have control of the situation. It is thought that the suspect might be storing more explosives inside his house,” government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng told reporters.
Police said they had detained another suspect at Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport, one of two men they were looking for who had been living at the house where the initial blast took place.
“We discovered the injured man’s passport. It’s an Iranian passport and he entered the country through Phuket and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the 8th of this month,” Police General Bansiri Prapapat told Reuters.
The three explosions in Bangkok came a day after bomb attacks targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia. Israel accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of being behind those attacks. Iran denied involvement.
Hezbollah is a Shi‘ite group backed by Syria and Iran that is on the U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations.
Thai officials declined to say whether the two men they had detained were involved with any militant group, but Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Iran.
“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror,” Barak said on a visit to Singapore.
“Iran and Hezbollah are unrelenting terror elements endangering the stability of the region, and endangering the stability of the world,” said Barak, who spent a few hours in Bangkok on Sunday.
Iran strongly denied any involvement in the Thai incident.
“The Foreign Ministry spokesman rejected Israeli claims that Iran was involved in the Bangkok bombing and added that efforts by the Zionist regime to harm friendly and historic relations between Iran and Thailand will bear no fruit,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Thai police said they were working to make safe an unspecified amount of explosives found in the house where the initial blast took place.
Police declined to make any link between Tuesday’s incident and the arrest last month of a Lebanese man in Bangkok who, according to the Thai authorities, had links to Hezbollah.
The police discovered a large amount of explosive material in an area southwest of Bangkok at around the time of that arrest. The United States, Israel and other countries issued warnings, subsequently lifted, of possible terrorist attacks in areas frequented by foreigners.
The Lebanese man has been charged with possession of explosive material and prosecutors said further charges could follow next week. Tuesday’s blasts were not near Israel’s embassy nor the main area for embassies.
A taxi driver told Thai television the wounded suspect had thrown a bomb in front of his car when he refused to pick him up near the site of the first blast. The driver was wounded slightly.
Government spokeswoman Thitima said police had then tried to move in and arrest the man but he attempted to throw another bomb at them. It went off before he was able to do so, blowing one of his legs off. A doctor at Chulalongkorn Hospital told reporters the other leg had to be amputated.
Another doctor was quoted on TV as saying three Thai people had suffered minor injuries, in addition to the taxi driver.
Additional reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond and Annie Chenaphun; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel