How bright lights of Pattaya seduced Iran's bungling Bangkok bombers

Numerous clues were left in the red-light district of the Thai resort by terror team. Peter Popham reports

It was the week when rumours of a new war with Iran became unstoppable, when all the talk was of red lines being crossed and options narrowing. But it was to culminate in a bloody farce.

On Monday, Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of an Israeli diplomat, was being driven through the heart of Delhi to the American School to pick up her children when she became aware of a motorcycle drawing close to the car and something being slapped on to its side.

The driver hit the brakes and Mrs Koren was half-way out of the door when the car blew up, destroyed by a sticky bomb similar to those which had killed several nuclear scientists in Iran in recent months.

Mrs Koren was taken to hospital with shrapnel in her spine and her legs apparently paralysed. She recovered consciousness only the next day. Revenge by Iran for a succession of clinically efficient attacks – widely believed to be the work of Mossad, though Israel always denied it – appeared to be under way. On the same day, a similar assassination attempt was foiled in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

But if the attacks in Bangkok were meant to be co-ordinated with those in India and Georgia, the bombers in Thailand had got strangely out of kilter.

The planning for their assaults had been painstaking. A 28-year-old Iranian woman called Rohani Leila rented a two-storey house at Soi Pridi Banomyong 36, a leafy side street in the affluent Ekkamai district of Bangkok, well in advance. She then returned to Iran. The bombing team, which consisted of at least three and perhaps four Iranian men, then flew into the country on 8 February via Phuket, the resort island 850km south of Bangkok.

If sex tourism was their cover, they took it pretty seriously. From Phuket they travelled the same day to Pattaya, the notoriously sleazy resort one hour's flying time south of Bangkok. One of the team, Saied Moradi, checked into the Top Thai hotel, a six-storey establishment down an alley near the night-life heart of the strip, where checks on guests were minimal.

Moradi was lugging a heavy backpack; soon after checking in he called an acquaintance, Mohammad Khazaei, who turned up similarly laden. Both men were well dressed and polite, staff remembered, so they paid them little attention. "Mr Moradi was good-looking and dressed neatly, like a young entrepreneur," said one of the hotel's employees. "He was also polite. I could not believe he was a bomber."

The two men kept themselves to themselves, leaving their room neither for breakfast for lunch. The only time they came out was at night, but then they allowed themselves to relax a little.

One of the team, Mohammad Khazaei, approached a Pattaya prostitute identified only as Nan and asked her to take him around because his English was so bad. She found companions for the other two, and three of the men and two of the women were snapped on Nan's mobile phone in a Middle East-themed bar in the resort where they smoked hookah pipes, slumped around a low table laden with drinks, including at least one bottle of beer. On at least one occasion, Nan accompanied Khazaei back to his room in Top Thai. She later told police she noticed nothing out of the ordinary in the room, though when she approached a closet he barred her from doing so.

Last Monday, the day of the attacks in Delhi and Tbilisi, the crew members made their move, checking out of their hotels and heading for Bangkok. There they moved into the safe house rented for them by Rohani Leila, and were joined by an older-looking, white-bearded man, who was filmed by surveillance cameras as he went in and out of the house carrying packages.

At 2pm on Tuesday everything suddenly went disastrously wrong: three large explosions tore the roof off the house and at least three men ran out into the street. Two of them, Khazaei and Masoud Sedaghat Zadeh, managed to flee but the third, Saied Moradi, 28, staggered into the street, bloody and disorientated. He flagged down a taxi which slowed, but when the driver got a good look at him he accelerated away.

Furious or confused or both, Moradi threw a hand grenade at the taxi and another at an approaching police car. Four Thais were injured in the blasts, and when one of the grenades bounced back, it exploded at Moradi's feet, tearing off one of his legs.

A mobile phone camera snapped him seconds later, his face a mask of agony, his right hand waving hopelessly, as a crowd of Thais looked on, stunned. He was taken to hospital where his other leg was also amputated. He remains in intensive care.

As police scoured the safe house and the bars and hotels of Pattaya for clues, it emerged that Israel's Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, had been due to visit Bangkok on Thursday. After the explosions, the visit was cancelled.

Khazaei was arrested at Bangkok's airport trying to leave the country; Zadeh got as far as Malaysia where he was detained. Yesterday, Thai police said they were looking for one other person they believed was involved in the attacks.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Moshe Yaalon, claimed that all the attacks were co-ordinated and were the work of the Quds Force, a covert arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

"We see what is happening in India, Georgia and Thailand," he said. "It is the same pattern: the same bomb, the same lab, the same factory."

Iran has denied any involvement.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are