An Iranian man was seriously wounded in Bangkok on Tuesday when a grenade he was carrying exploded and blew one of his legs off. Israeli officials said that said the incident was another attempted terrorist attack by Iran.
Shortly before the man was wounded, there had been at least one explosion in a house three men were 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," Thai government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng told reporters.
Thai media have quoted police sources as saying that an accidental explosion at the house triggered Tuesday's events. The three men tried to flee, fearing discovery, and one tossed a grenade at a taxi driver and another at Thai police.
Police later said they had apprehended another Iranian 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 Islamist group backed by Syria and Iran that is on the official U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organisations.
Thai officials declined to speculate on whether the two men they had detained were involved with any militant group, but Israeli Minister of Defense 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.
Thai police said they were working to make safe an unspecified amount of explosives found in the house where the initial blast took place.
TAXI A TARGET
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 in the sprawling Thai capital were not near Israel 's embassy nor the main area for embassies.
A taxi driver told Thai television the wounded suspect had thrown a grenade or bomb in front of his car when he refused to pick him up near the site of the first blast. He was wounded slightly.
Government spokeswoman Thitima said police had then tried to move in and arrest the man but he attempted to throw another grenade or 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 had to be amputated.
Another doctor was quoted on television as saying three Thai people had suffered minor injuries in the incident, in addition to the taxi driver.
There have been no major attacks blamed on Islamist militants in Bangkok even though Muslim rebels are battling government security forces in Muslim-dominated southern provinces of the Buddhist kingdom.
In 1994, suspected Islamist militants tried to set off a big truck bomb outside the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, but they abandoned the bid and fled after the truck was involved in a minor traffic accident as it approached the mission.
(Additonal reporting by Sinsiri Tiwutanond and Annie Chenaphun; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel)