Monday, February 13, 2012

Israel blames Iran for embassy bombs in Delhi, Tbilisi

A hitman on a motorbike fixed a suspected magnetic bomb on an Israeli embassy car in the Indian capital on Monday, police said, in one of two attacks in New Delhi and Tbilisi blamed by Israel on Iran.

The embassy car exploded in a ball of flames in central New Delhi, injuring a 42-year-old female embassy employee and her Indian driver who were pulled from the wreckage by bystanders, police and witnesses said.

In the Georgian capital Tbilisi, 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometres) to the west, an embassy employee found a suspicious device in his car and contacted police who were able to defuse the bomb before it went off.

"Iran is behind these attacks. It is the biggest exporter of terror in the world," Israeli Prime Minister Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu told members of his rightwing Likud party in Jerusalem.

The Israeli leader said there had been a number of attempts to harm Israelis and Jews in recent months, in places such as Thailand and Azerbaijan, in a series of plots coordinated by Tehran and Lebanon's Shiite militia Hezbollah.

In New Delhi, Indian police commissioner B.K. Gupta said that a witness had seen a man ride up behind the silver Toyota with diplomatic plates as it approached a junction shortly after leaving the Israeli embassy.

"He saw a man on a motorbike sticking some kind of a device on the rear side of the car," the police commissioner told reporters. "Just a few seconds after the car exploded."

The 42-year-old embassy worker inside -- the wife of the defence attache in New Delhi who was on her way to collect her children from school -- was taken to a private hospital where she was said to be critical but stable.

"She is in the OT (operating Theatre) for spine surgery," medical superintendent of Primus Hospital, N.D. Khurana, told AFP. "There are so many injuries (on her body) and she is critical but she is stable."

Witnesses described hearing an explosion in the middle of the afternoon around 3:30 pm (1000 GMT) and then seeing the car on fire.

The blast was of relatively low intensity. The charred remains of the car surrounded by debris stood in the street until the early evening, with the roof still intact but the back door missing.

"We heard a huge explosion and then me and my workers ran to the site where we found the car on fire," petrol pump supervisor Ravi Singh told reporters.

"I think there was a woman and a driver in the car and I think (other) people pulled her out. And then the fire tenders (trucks) arrived at the site," he said.

The method used in the attacks closely mirrors the tactics of assassins that have been targeting Iranian nuclear scientists with magnetic bombs placed on their cars.

Three scientists and a physicist have been killed in the last two years in murders blamed by Iran on Israeli and American secret services.

The bomb plots in New Delhi and Tbilisi also fell between anniversaries of the deaths of two top militants from Hezbollah, the militant group which has close ties to Iran. The anniversary sparks annual travel warnings from Israel.

The Indian government, meanwhile, ordered tightening of security at diplomatic missions, especially of Israel, the United States and other Western countries, the Press Trust of India reported.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that Israel was "cooperating with the local law enforcement agencies" in New Delhi and Tbilisi.

A Jewish centre run by the the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch movement was among the targets in the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai blamed on the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in which 10 gunmen killed at least 166 people.

The last militant strike in New Delhi was last September when a bomb outside the High Court killed 14 people -- the latest in a series of blasts that has shaken public confidence in the Indian government's counter-terror capabilities.

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