Thai detention of Iranian bomb suspect extended

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2012 11:18 AM
Thai detention of Iranian bomb suspect extended

A Thai court on Wednesday allowed 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, and Thai officials have said Israeli diplomats may have been targeted.

There is speculation the suspects planned attacks as part of a covert battle being waged over Iran's alleged quest to develop nuclear weapons.

The explosions were one day after two attacks 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 trying to reach 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 wounded himself attempting to hurl explosives at police officers.

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. Matching stickers were found on a motorcycle and another apartment belonging to the Iranians.

"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.

Officials have said police found in the rented house two portable radio bombs _ each filled with one or two pounds of plastic explosives _ with round, coin-like magnets on them. Similar bombs were used in the Georgian and Indian attacks, and they are also similar to a device used in the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist, which Iran had blamed on Israel.