Security ‘stepped-up’ after bungled Bangkok bombings
The Iranian bombing incident obviously hit the news headlines, however, the impact has had far-reaching consequences within Thailand, and the government is hurriedly trying to repair not only the literal damage caused by the bungling Iranian would-be bombers, but also the potential damage to the country’s tourism, as well as the political furor and indignation it has caused around the world.
It was ‘confirmed’ today by a senior Thai policeman that the actual intended victims of the bombs were supposed to be the Israeli diplomats residing in Bangkok, and that they were a continuation of and Iranian campaign that recently saw bombings – using very similar explosive devices – in both India and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
National police chief General Prewpan Dhamapong was reported as saying that Thai authorities now ‘know for certain that the targets were Israeli diplomats’, going on to say that “This issue was about individuals and the targets were specific. This was something personal.”
Thailand is speeding up the process to request Malaysia to extradite an Iranian national who is a suspect (in the Sukhumvit bomb incidents) for prosecution in Thailand, while one female Iranian suspect – identified as Rohani Leila – has apparently managed to leave Thailand, returning to Iran.
Immigration Bureau Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Wiboon Bangthamai cited intelligence reports that Ms Rohani has returned to the Iranian capital of Tehran, however, Thailand and Iran have no extradition treaty so Thailand can not request Iran to extradite her to face prosecution here. She is suspected of having arranged the rental of the house used by the bombers.
National Police Bureau Chief Pol Gen Prewpan Dhamapong said that he has assigned Pol Gen Pansiri Prapawat, deputy national police chief overseeing the case, to coordinate efforts with the Office of the Attorney General to formally request the extradition of Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, arrested on Wednesday by Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur.
Gen Prewpan explained that the Thai request could proceed without using the extradition treaty, and that Malaysia has the authority to detain the suspect for 14 days.
On Thursday the Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for a total of four Iranians, on various charges relating to Tuesday’s Bangkok bomb incidents.
The Thai police continue to detain two Iranian suspects already arrested — Saeid Moradi, 28, who lost his legs from his own explosive device — and another suspect, identified as Mohammad Hazaei, 42, who was taken into custody at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday while attempting to board a plane to Malaysia.
Gen Prewpan told reporters that Mohammad Hazaei, one of the four suspects, has admitted knowing the other three suspects, but denied all charges, asserting that he was not involved with the explosions.
The police chief added that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit was examining the bomb components to compare them with the devices used in the bomb attacks in India and Georgia.
The Court approval of the arrest warrants followed police submissions of photos of the suspects captured on closed circuit television, as well as the explosive devices seized from their rented house and the testimony of eyewitnesses.
On Thursday, Pol Gen Pansiri Prapawat, deputy national police chief overseeing the case, called a full-team meeting, consisting of the investigators from the Metropolitan Police, the Crime Suppression Department, the Immigration Bureau, and the Special Branch Police, as well as experts from the Scientific Crime Detection Division and the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit.
The senior police officer promised that an in-depth investigation will undoubtedly shed light on how the incident took place, the frequency of the suspects’ visit to Thailand, the origin of the explosives and who imported the explosive devices as well as how and where they assembled the explosives.
Gen Pansiri said that Klong Tan Police Station was assigned as the investigation centre and that meetings will be held daily to follow up the operations.
Thai police have stepped up general security measures at major tourist destinations popular among foreign visitors, and held a press conference this morning after Malaysian police arrested the third Iranian suspect linked to the explosions.
Pol Maj Gen Wichai Sangprapai, acting commander of Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Bureau, urged the Thai public not to panic as there was no intelligence report indicating any terrorist attack in Thailand.
Police stations in the Thai capital were ordered to boost security, particularly in areas popular among foreign tourists, he said, asking the public to inform police immediately of any irregularities.
At Khao San Road, a major tourist centre, police have set up checkpoints from 8pm-6am. Tourists crowded the street as usual despite the three blasts that alarmed the capital on Tuesday.
Interviewed by international media, some foreign visitors expressed confidence in the security measures provided by the police.
The police investigation team’s news briefing at Khlong Ton police station was giving more details after Malaysia reported arresting a third suspect in the bombings, an Iranian national. The Thai National Police Bureau asked the Malaysian police to bring him to face charges in Thailand.
The French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Malaysian police chief Ismail Omar as saying in a statement on Wednesday that “The Iranian was arrested under the Immigration Act of Malaysia (using) intelligence provided by Thai counterparts. He is being investigated for terrorism activities in relation to bombings in Thailand.”
The statement gave no further details, such as the suspect’s name but the Thai authorities identified him as Masoud Sedaghatzadeh.
China’s Xinhua news agency quoted the Malaysian newspaper The Star as reporting that the 31-year-old suspect was arrested at a budget airline terminal near Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday – just as he was about to board a flight to Iran.
Photo: AFP Photo/Thai Police