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Thai detention of Iranian bomb suspect extended
A Thai court allowed yesterday police to continue to detain one of five Iranian suspects in an alleged terror plot that was exposed by an accidental blast in a residential Bangkok neighborhood.
Police Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said Mohammad Kharzei, 42, will be held at a Bangkok prison for at least 12 more days. He was arrested on charges of being an accomplice to possession of unlawful explosives and causing explosions that damaged property and harmed other people.
Three men identified as Iranians fled the house where the blast occurred Feb. 14. Police found bombs in the house, but are still not clear about the suspects’ intentions.
There is speculation that they planned to attack Israeli targets in the Thai capital as part of a covert battle being waged over Iran’s alleged quest to develop nuclear weapons.
The explosions Feb. 14 came one day after two other incidents in India and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in which bombers tried to hit Israeli targets with so-called “sticky” bombs that attach magnetically to vehicles.
In Thailand, 43 police officers, including senior-ranking commissioners, have been assigned to work on the case and have found “quite a bit of evidence,” Piya said.
He said Kharzei is the first suspect whose case has proceeded under criminal law. He was arrested at Bangkok’s airport on the day of the blast as he was waiting for a flight to Malaysia. With court approval, a suspect can be detained without formal charges for up to 84 days.
Another suspect, Saeid Moradi, 28, is so far being held for violating immigration law. He was detained soon after the blast after he attempted to hurl explosives at police officers, blowing off part of his legs in the process.
Arrest warrants have been issued for three other suspects, all Iranians: Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, 31, who was detained by Malaysian authorities last week; Leila Rohani, 31; and Norouzi Shayan Ali Akbar, 57. Thai authorities are seeking Sedaghatzadeh’s extradition and believe Rohani and Akbar have returned to their home country.
Piya said investigators have not found any links between the suspects and dozens of stickers bearing the word “SEJEAL” — possibly a reference to a passage from the Quran — that were pasted at various locations in Bangkok. The stickers were identical to ones found under the seat of the Iranians’ motorcycle as well as in an apartment rented by one of the suspects.
“The officers will base their investigation only on the evidence and witnesses, and will use neither speculation, nor imagination in solving this case,” Piya said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday assigned two deputy prime ministers to oversee intelligence meetings and prepare security measures. She also asked the Transport Ministry to ensure the safety of travelers at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
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