Signs Allegedly Posted by Iranian Bombers Baffle Bangkok
More "Baked Clay" Signs, Allegedly Posted by Iranian Bombers, Baffle Bangkok
By Richard S. Ehrlich
February 22, 2012
Bangkok, Thailand -- Police discovered on Wednesday (Feb. 22) more signs, printed with an Arabic word describing "baked clay," pasted on Bangkok's streets allegedly by Iranians who prematurely set off bombs made of clay-like C-4 explosives while plotting to assassinate Israeli diplomats.
During the past three days, explosives ordnance disposal squads have found at least 56 identical, rectangular, white paper bumper stickers -- slightly larger than a car license plate -- with the word SEJEAL printed in big, black, all-capital Roman letters, in a distinctive font.
The bumper stickers were pasted in locations which included near the American Embassy and other diplomatic missions, five-star hotels, tourist areas and elsewhere on busy streets in central Bangkok.
It was unclear why three arrested Iranian bomb-makers, and their escaped female partner, allegedly chose that Arabic word for their coded signs, but Iran launched a long-range ballistic missile named Sejeal in 2008.
Palestinian militants have described their rockets and mortars as "sejeal stones" against Israel's occupation.
And in Iraq, a Sajeel Battalion of the Islamic Army appeared among various insurgent groups several years ago.
The word appears in Islam's 1,300-year-old 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.
The Arabic word "sejeal" means "baked clay" in English.
Police linked the bumper stickers to three Iranian men who were arrested for setting off a series of clay-like C-4 bombs in Bangkok on Feb. 14 which destroyed their rented house, damaged a taxi, blew off the legs of one of the Iranians, and injured four Thai civilians.
Police said they found an additional 300 identical bumper stickers in a Bangkok hotel room used by an Iranian woman who recently departed Thailand and apparently returned to Iran.
Several of the same stickers were also discovered in the wreckage of the Iranians' house, and in a small compartment of a motorcycle the Iranians purchased in Bangkok, police said.
Worried residents in central Bangkok began telephoning police on Monday to report sightings of identical bumper stickers attached in plain view to electricity poles, billboards, traffic signs, bus stops, among posted advertisements and elsewhere, including several 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 American Embassy, police said.
Police said the bumper stickers 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.
The bumper stickers may have indicated locations where Israeli diplomats might pass while driving to or from their embassy several blocks away, or could have marked an escape route for an attacker, police said.
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.
A similar device was defused on an Israeli embassy worker's 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.
In Bangkok, the arrested Iranians allegedly made each of their bombs by hollowing out a cheap, black plastic, portable radio, which they stuffed with C-4 explosives, several magnets, and some steel ball bearings to increase the destruction.
The pin and handle of a grenade was shoved into the side of the radio, so the attacker could approach a car, magnetically stick the radio onto the side of the vehicle, and then manually pull a circular ring to yank out the pin -- similar to a hand grenade.
Several seconds later, the device could explode.
ABC News Network published on Tuesday (Feb. 21) a photograph of an "undetonated bomb...packed with tiny ball bearings and six magnets" allegedly built by the Iranians to assassinate Israelis in Bangkok, according to ABC's website.
That bomb was to be "detonated with an M26 hand grenade fuse," and was one of two discovered in the house where the Iranians stayed, the report said.
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, was filmed by a nearby CCTV in the street, carrying what appears to be two radios -- one in each hand -- while leaving the destroyed house.
Minutes later, Mr. 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.
Another Iranian, Mohammad Kharzei, 42, was arrested a few hours later attempting to depart through Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
A 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.
Authorities earlier mentioned Nikkhahfard Javad "of Middle Eastern descent" as another male suspect.
Mr. Kharzei meanwhile began cooperating with police on Monday, explaining his involvement in the plot, police said.
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.
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.