Israel says Bangkok bomb is Iran terror attempt

JOSEF FEDERMAN Associated Press Published:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel said an explosion in Bangkok Tuesday that blew the legs off an Iranian man carrying grenades was an attempted terrorist attack sponsored by Tehran.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak stopped short of saying the man was trying to target Israelis. However, it came a day after Israel blamed Iran for attacks targeting Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia. And Barak's comments made clear that Israel considers the attacks connected and sponsored by the Iranian government.

Israeli officials believe Iran, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, are aggressively targeting Israelis to avenge years of setbacks that they blame on Israel.

"The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terror," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during an official visit to Singapore. "The recent terror attacks are yet another example of this."

"Iran and Hezbollah are unrelenting terror elements endangering the stability of the region, and endangering the stability of the world," he added.

Israel, like the West, accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten its very existence, citing Iranian leaders' calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, their support for Arab militants and the development of an advanced missile system. In recent week, Israel has sent out hints that it may soon attack Iran's nuclear program.

In Tuesday's attack, an Iranian man carrying grenades set off a series of explosions that blew off his own legs and wounded four civilians, after an earlier blast shook the house where he was staying.

Authorities said it was unclear whether the Bangkok explosions were linked to Monday's attack in India. He did not say whether Israelis were the target of the Bangkok attacks. Since there were no reports of Israeli diplomats in the area, the explosions may have detonated prematurely. Thailand is also a popular destination for Israeli tourists, so it is possible that Israeli civilians could have been a potential target.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli police heightened their state of alert throughout the country in response to the overseas attacks.

In Monday's attacks, an Israeli diplomat's wife and her driver were wounded in New Delhi after a motorcyclist attached a bomb to their car. A similar attempt in Tbilisi, Georgia, was thwarted after Israelis spotted the bomb and defused it.

Hezbollah this week marked the fourth anniversary of the assassination of commander Imad Mughniyeh, who died in a mysterious explosion widely blamed on Israel.

Iran, meanwhile, has accused the Israelis of being behind a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and other sabotage of its nuclear program. Israel, like the West, believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.