30 April 2014

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Three Iranians who were arrested for allegedly setting off clay-like C-4 bombs in Bangkok on Valentine's Day, pasted more than 50 signs printed with an Arabic word describing "baked clay" pinpointing more than 27 sites including near the American Embassy, police said on Monday (Feb. 20).



Panicked residents in central Bangkok telephoned police on Monday to report additional sightings of identical signs attached in plain view to electricity poles, billboards, traffic signs, walls and elsewhere, including some sites where multiple signs appeared.



Locations included near Soi Ruam Rudee, which is an upscale two-lane road leading to the nearby rear entrance of the U.S. Embassy, police said.



Some police said the signs appeared to map a mile-long route leading to the JW Marriot Hotel, off Sukhumvit Soi 2, which is a couple of blocks from Soi Ruam Rudee and a popular venue for U.S. diplomats, executives, tourists and other nationalities.



Israel said Iran was plotting to assassinate Israeli diplomats in Bangkok by using "magnet bombs" which could be attached to envoys' vehicles.



A magnet bomb was placed by an unidentified motorcyclist on the car of an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi, India, severely injuring her on Feb. 13.



Another of the devices was defused on an Israeli embassy vehicle the same day in Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.



Iran denied all involvement in the bombings in New Delhi, Tbilisi and Bangkok, and blamed "Zionists" for staging the events to smear Tehran.



Explosives ordnance disposal police who inspected each location on Monday found identical, rectangular, white paper signs -- slightly larger than a car license plate -- with the word SEJEAL printed in big, all capital black letters, in an ornate font.



It was unclear why the three alleged Iranian bomb-makers may have chosen that word, though Iran launched a long-range ballistic missile named Sejeal in 2008.



The word also appears in Islam's holy Koran in a story about enemies riding atop an elephant towards the prophet Mohammad, to kill him. Birds sent from heaven tossed "sejeal" stones at the elephant, scaring it away and preventing the attack.



Palestinian militants have described their rockets and mortars as "sejeal stones" against Israel's occupation.



In Iraq, the Sajeel Battalion of the Islamic Army appeared among various insurgent groups several years ago.



On Monday, one of the three arrested Iranians, Mohammad Kharzei, 42, led police to at least 27 places where the signs appeared.



Mr. Kharzei was earlier described as stubborn during questioning until police brought a young Thai woman nicknamed Nan to visit him while he was in custody.



She was his escort when the three Iranian men cavorted from Feb. 8 to 13 in Pattaya, a nearby beach resort crowded with inexpensive prostitutes.



A published photograph reportedly from Nan's mobile phone showed the three Iranians at a Middle Eastern restaurant accompanied by two other Thai women, enjoying drinks and hookah pipes before the men traveled to Bangkok.



The Iranians were allegedly building bombs with C-4 explosives in a Bangkok house when it blew up on Feb. 14, apparently by accident, prompting the trio to flee.



One of the men, Saeid Moradi, threw a grenade-like bomb at a taxi, injuring the driver, and another explosive at police.



It bounced back and blew off his own legs, resulting in Mr. Moradi's capture and hospitalization, along with three wounded Thai pedestrians.



A few hours later, Mr. Kharzei was arrested attempting to depart through Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.



The third Iranian, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was captured in neighboring Malaysia on Feb. 15 after flying from Bangkok.



Police said a fourth Iranian man suspected of involvement, Norouzi Shaya Ali Akbar, 57, departed Bangkok on Feb. 14, apparently for Iran.



The group's alleged Iranian female accomplice, Rohani Leila, 32, also successfully flew from Bangkok to Tehran.



Police said they found more than 100 identical paper SEJEAL signs in her room at the Nasa Vegas Hotel in Bangkok after she fled.



They also discovered six of the same signs in a storage compartment of a motorcycle allegedly purchased by the Iranians in Bangkok.



Authorities earlier mentioned Nikkhahfard Javad "of Middle Eastern descent" as another male suspect.



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Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.



His websites are:

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(Copyright 2012 Richard S Ehrlich)