Bombs target Israeli diplomats in India, Georgia; 2 injured
By Simon Denyer and Joel Greenberg,
NEW DELHI — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily blamed Iran on Monday for twin attempts to bomb people affiliated with the Israeli embassies in New Delhi and Tbilisi, Georgia.
The wife of an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi and her driver were injured in a blast from explosives slapped on their car by a passing motorcyclist, authorities said. Around the same time, a grenade-type device was found duct taped to the bottom of a car affiliated with the embassy in Tbilisi. It was defused without anyone being injured.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incidents. But Netanyahu quickly pointed a finger at Iran, which has vowed revenge for recent assassinations of scientists involved in its nuclear program, and at Hezbollah, a terror group sponsored by Iran that had pledged to avenge the assassination four years ago of one of its leaders.
Ticking off places where he said recent attacks on Jews and Israelis had been thwarted, including Thailand and Azerbaijan, Netanyahu accused Iran of orchestrating Monday’s plots and called the government in Tehran “the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”
“In all these cases,” Netanyahu said, “the elements behind the attacks were Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.”
Netanyahu offered no details of the attempts he cited, or specific evidence for his claim. But Israel had put its foreign missions on high alert in recent days, because of the anniversary of the death of Hezbollah mastermind Imad Moughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus on Feb. 12, 2008, when a bomb planted in the headrest of his car was detonated.
Iran’s ambassador in India, Mehdi Nabizadeh, said Iran played no role in Monday’s attack, which took place just a few hundred yards from the prime minister’s residence as the diplomat’s wife was heading to the American Embassy School to pick up her children.
“Any terrorist attack is condemned, and we strongly reject the untrue accusations by an official of the Zionist regime,” Nabizadeh said, according to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA. “Like always, these accusations are untrue and sheer lies.”
Hamid-Reza Tarraghi, a politician close to Iran’s supreme leader, said that “if Iran would plan something like that we would certainly not announce it,”
“We have called for support of the resistance against Israel, so it is possible cores of resistance are formed across the world,” Tarraghi said. “But I have no idea who is behind the attack in India.”
Both the New Delhi attack and the discovery of the bomb in Tbilisi happened about the same time Monday — 3:20 p.m. in New Delhi and 1:50 p.m. in Tiblisi (4:50 a.m. in Washington). The incidents further stoked tensions between Iran and the West that are already sky-high.
The United States is leading a global push for sanctions that it hopes will force Iran to open its nuclear program for international inspection, and Israel is weighing a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. The United States, Israel and others suspect that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Iran, however, says its nuclear program is for energy purposes only.
New Delhi police commissioner Brajesh Kumar Gupta said a person on a motorcycle approached the vehicle carrying the diplomat’s wife and affixed a magnetic bomb to its rear side. The car drove a short distance, there was a loud sound and then an explosion, and the car caught fire, he said.
“We realized it’s not a firecracker, but an explosion, and rushed toward the car,” said Ravi Singh, 50, owner of a gas station near the blast site.
Israeli officials identified the injured woman as the wife of Israel’s defense representative in New Delhi. Gupta said she was conscious and had been hospitalized in stable condition. Her driver, as well as two people in a nearby car, sustained minor injuries, Gupta said.
Joji Philip Thomas, an editor with an Indian publication called the Economic Times, posted on Twitter that he was behind the car when the bomb detonated and saw a female passenger thrown from the vehicle. He posted a photograph of the car in flames.
In Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, a grenade was found attached to the car used by the Israeli ambassador, Yitzhak Gerberg, Real-TV reported. The car belonged to the embassy driver, not the embassy, said Shota Khizanishvili, a spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry.
The grenade was discovered after the driver, identified as Roman Khachaturyan, noticed an object attached to the bottom of the car with duct tape, the local news report said. Khachaturyan called police, who summoned explosive experts to detonate it under controlled conditions.
“There was one attempted attack, and one successful, as it were,” Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, told the Reuters news agency.
In January, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said a thwarted plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year--a plot that allegedly originated in Tehran--shows an increasing willingness by Iran to launch attacks on U.S. soil.
Iran has openly threatened retaliation for the recent killings of its nuclear scientists, and has blamed the assassinations on both Israel and the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has categorically denied any United States involvement; Israeli officials have refused to comment.
“We will never disregard punishment for the individuals who committed this crime and the elements behind its scene,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote in a public letter of condolence.
Iranian Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said the United States, Britain and the Mossad, Israel’s spy service, “will face the consequences of this action. The Islamic Republic of Iran will give them a biting answer.”
The attack in New Delhi bore eerie similarities to the Jan. 11 killing of Iranian nuclear chemist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, a 32-year-old deputy head of procurement at the Natanz enrichment facility. The scientist was killed in an explosion after an unknown assailant on a motorcycle slapped a magnetic bomb on his car as he commuted to work.