BANGKOK - A series of explosions rocked a residential neighborhood here yesterday, leading Thai authorities to a cache of bombs in a rented house and the capture of two men identified in Thai media reports as Iranians. A third suspect was being sought.
Witnesses said the three men, all of whom appeared to be foreigners, fled a house in the Sukhumvit neighborhood of Bangkok after an explosion in the early afternoon tore off the roof of the house. Two of the men ran immediately from the house, witnesses said; one was later detained at the city’s main international airport. The third man emerged shortly after the first two, seeming disoriented, with his face and ears bloodied, they said. As the third man tried to leave the area, he threw two grenades, one at a taxi and one at approaching police officers. The blast from the second struck him, however, blowing off his legs and injuring several Thais.
As of late yesterday no evidence had emerged connecting the explosions in Bangkok with the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel. But the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, linked the explosions with the attacks on Israeli Embassy personnel Monday in the capitals of India and Georgia that Israel blamed on Iran and on Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group Iran backs.
“The attempted terrorist attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies continue to perpetrate terrorism,’’ Barak said. “The recent terror attacks are yet another example of this.’’
Barak, who had been in Bangkok for a few hours Sunday, made his comments yesterday in Singapore, according to a statement from his office.
“Iran and Hezbollah are unrelenting terror elements endangering the stability of the region and the stability of the world,’’ Barak added.
In the United States, the State Department echoed him.
“With regard to this bombing, the incidents in Delhi, incidents in Georgia,’’ said Victoria Nuland, the department spokeswoman, “while we will await the results of the investigations, these events do come on the heels of other disrupted attacks targeted at Israel and Western interests, including an Iranian-sponsored attack in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a Hezbollah-linked attack in Bangkok, Thailand, before this.’’
“We seem to have an uptick in this kind of violence,’’ Nuland said. “We’re concerned about it. Some of these have been linked to Iran. Again, we are just concerned that these come on the heels of other incidents that clearly had links back to Iran.’’
Israel and Iran are locked in an intensifying conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran blames Israel for the assassinations of five of its nuclear scientists and has promised revenge. Another Israeli official, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, issued Israel’s bluntest warning of retaliation, though without naming Iran. The Associated Press quoted him as telling Israeli Radio yesterday, “We know who carried out the terror attacks, we know who sent them, and Israel will settle the score with them.’’
Israeli officials said Israeli forensic teams were in New Delhi and Tbilisi at the sites of the two Monday explosions, helping local authorities investigate the attacks, a standard practice whenever Israelis are the targets of attacks abroad. And they said Israeli and Thai security forces have been cooperating closely for a month, since US and Thai reports of a possible terrorist attack by foreigners in Bangkok.
There appeared to be few explanations for what unfolded yesterday.
The three men had rented and occupied the house for the past several weeks, said Laxme Kondan, 35, a housecleaner who lives on the same street. The police searched the house into the night and discovered C4 explosives and at least two improvised explosive devices, Major General Wichai Sangprapai, the deputy metropolitan commissioner, said in a telephone interview.
A passerby on a motorcycle, Wichai Tiwaree, 44, said that soon after the explosion in the house, he saw “a guy walking in a very unusual way.’’
“I saw blooding coming out of his ears,’’ Wichai said.
He then heard another blast, he said.
The police said the man tried to hail a taxi and threw an explosive device, possibly a hand grenade, when it did not stop, destroying the front half the vehicle.
Wichai then saw the man running up a busy thoroughfare.
“People were yelling, ‘Get him! Get him!’ ’’ he said.
The police said he tried to throw a grenade at them, but that it did not go far enough. An account in the Thai media said the grenade hit a tree and bounced back toward the man. In any case, his legs were destroyed in the blast. At least three other people were injured.