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Israel accuses Iran of bombings in India, Georgia

Assailants targeted Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia in near-simultaneous strikes Monday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed on archenemy Iran, and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.
/ Source: news services

Israel accused arch-enemies Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of being behind twin bomb attacks that targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia on Monday, wounding four people.

Tehran denied involvement in the attacks, which amplified tensions between two countries already at loggerheads over Iran's nuclear program, and accused Israel of carrying out the attacks itself. There was no claim of responsibility; Hezbollah made no comment.

Tehran has accused Israel of covert attacks on its nuclear program, including assassinations of top nuclear officials and scientists.

The attacks appeared to have been carried out with sticky bombs attached to cars by magnets. Similar weapons were used against Iran's nuclear scientists, feeding suspicions that the new bombings were a retaliation crafted to mirror those attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed both Iran and Hezbollah, accusing them of responsibility for a string of recent attempted attacks on Israeli interests in countries as far apart as Thailand and Azerbaijan.

"Today we witnessed two attempts of terrorism against innocent civilians," Netanyahu told a gathering of lawmakers from his Likud Party. "Iran is behind these attacks and it is the largest terror exporter in the world," he said.

In India, an assailant on a motorcycle apparently attached a bomb to an Israeli diplomat's vehicle and it quickly exploded, officials said. Israel said an attempted car bombing in Georgia was thwarted. Netanyahu also said Israel had thwarted attacks in recent months in Azerbaijan and Thailand and unspecified other countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast rejected Netanyahu's accusation, saying it was Israel that had carried out the attacks as part of its psychological warfare against Iran.

"It seems that these suspicious incidents are designed by the Zionist regime and carried out with the aim of harming Iran's reputation," the official news agency IRNA quoted Mehmanparast as saying.

'Sheer lies'
Iran rejected as "sheer lies" accusations that it was involved in a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in India.

Both Hezbollah and Iran have deep grievances against the Jewish state.

Hezbollah battled Israel in a monthlong war in 2006, and on Sunday, it the Lebanese guerrilla group marked the anniversary of the 2008 assassination of one of its commanders, Imad Mughniyeh, in a bombing widely believed to have been carried out by Israel. Iran suspects Israeli involvement in attacks on its nuclear program.

'Loud explosion'
The New Delhi attack took place just a few hundred meters from the prime minister's residence as the diplomat's wife was heading to the American Embassy School to pick up her children, said Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta.

When the car approached a crossing, she noticed a motorcyclist ride up and stick something on it that appeared to be a magnetic device, he said.

The car drove a short distance, there was a loud sound and then an explosion and the car caught fire, he said.

"It was a loud explosion. 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.

"The blast was so powerful, the car behind got damaged as well," said Monu, a nearby high school student who uses only one name.

The blast left a charred minivan with blue diplomatic plates, its rear door apparently blown out.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said the woman, Tal Yehoshua-Koren, suffered moderate shrapnel wounds and was being treated at a local hospital by Israeli doctors. It identified her as the wife of a Defense Ministry official based in New Delhi.

Her driver, Manoj Sharma 42, and two people in a nearby car had minor injuries, Gupta said.

Israeli diplomats in India have been on constant alert since Pakistan-based militants rampaged across the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, attacking luxury hotels, the main train station and killing six people in the Chabad Jewish community center.

India's foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, said India would cooperate closely with Israel in the investigation and promised to bring the assailants to justice.

"I have just spoken to the Israeli foreign minister," he said. "I assured him that the law of the land will take its course."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attacks.

"The United States places a high priority on the safety and security of diplomatic personnel around the world and we stand ready to assist with any investigation of these cowardly actions," she said.

Georgia attack
Authorities in the former Soviet republic of Georgia said an explosive device was planted on the car of a driver for the Israeli Embassy.

Shota Utiashvili, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, said the driver noticed a package attached to his car's undercarriage and called police.

Police found a grenade in the package and it was defused, Utiashvili said.

In what appeared to be a precautionary move, the Israeli ambassador to Egypt was held in the VIP lounge at Cairo's airport for four hours while police dogs sniffed two embassy cars waiting for him. He later left for home under tight security, and the lounge was thoroughly searched by police.

Israel, like the West, accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and has urged the international community to consider all means, including military action, to stop Tehran. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Last month, a director of Iran's main uranium enrichment site was killed in a blast from a magnetic bomb placed on his car. The official, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was at least the fifth member of Iran's scientific community killed in apparent targeted attacks in the past two years.
Iran blamed Israel. The official news agency IRNA said later it had "evidence" of alleged U.S. and British involvement in the Roshan killing.