WASHINGTON - The "Special
Cell" of the New Delhi police has identified an
Iranian, Houshang Afghan Irani, as the man it
believes carried out a February 13 car bombing at
the Israeli embassy in New Delhi that injured the
wife of an embassy official. The police
believe three other Iranians were also involved in
the plot. But major questions about the integrity
of evidence put forward to prove the existence of
an Iranian bomb plot cast doubt on that claim,
which is the centerpiece of the Israeli accusation
that Iran has been waging a campaign of terrorism
against Israelis in as many as 20 countries.
Only Indian journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad
Kazmi has been officially charged in the case -
according to police, Kazmi confessed to helping
officials from Iran plan the bombing plot in
return for payments
totalling US$5,500. The treatment of Irani and the
other Iranians as suspects also depends very
heavily on "disclosure statements" supposedly made
by Kazmi but denounced by the journalist as police
Although the Special Cell
(SC) also claims to have forensic evidence of
Irani's link to the bombing, the evidence appears
to be tainted by improper police procedures.
Kazmi is an unlikely candidate for
participation in an Iranian terrorist plot. A
50-year-old senior Indian journalist, he had his
own web-based news service, a regular job as a
columnist for the leading Urdu-language weekly and
a retainer as Urdu newscaster for India’s
state-owned television channel Doordarshan.
A central problem for the SC case is that
it has no eyewitness testimony for its contention
that Irani planted the bomb on the Israeli embassy
A hotel security camera showed that
Irani left the hotel the morning of the explosion
wearing a black jacket. Irani had also rented a
black Honda Karizma. But eyewitness Gopal
Krishanan, who was driving the car that was
directly behind the embassy car and thus had a
clear view of the motorcycle rider when he
attached the bomb to the rear of the car, said he
was certain the rider had a red motorcycle and was
wearing a red helmet and red jacket.
police were convinced by his testimony. Tal
Yehoshua-Koren, who was injured in the attack but
was able to get to the Israeli embassy without
assistance, later told investigators she thought
the attacker had been riding a black motorcycle
and wearing a black jacket and helmet. A senior
police officer involved in the case told the
Indian Express, however, that Yehoshua-Koren could
not be certain of the color of the motorcycle.
The police continued to search for a red
motorcycle after obtaining her statement, as was
widely reported in the Indian press. Only after
the SC decided that Irani was the bomber did the
police switch to the position that the bomber had
been riding a black motorcycle and wearing a black
helmet and jacket.
Irani became a target
of the investigation after the SC learned that a
phone number associated with Masoud Sedaghat
Zadeh, one of the three Iranians staying in a
Bangkok house where an explosion occurred February
14, had allegedly contacted the Indian mobile
phone number being used by Irani.
charge sheet does not include documentation for
the claim that Iranis phone had been called by
that of the accused in the Bangkok explosion. And
Iranis receipts shown in the charge sheet for the
moped purchased in April 2011 and for the
motorcycle rented in early 2012 list Indian mobile
phone numbers different from the one cited as
having been contacted by Zadeh.
no effort to hide his identity in either of those
transactions, so there would be no reason for him
to write a false number on the receipt.
The police claim to have recovered from
Irani's hotel room seven items on which the
government's Central Forensic Science Laboratory
found traces of TNT - the same explosive that the
bomb affixed to the embassy car contained.
But the SC violated several police
procedures in regard to that evidence, suggesting
that it may have been planted by the Special Cell.
It was not until February 29, 16 days
after Irani left the hotel, that the room was
sealed by police. Even worse, another two weeks
passed before it was actually inspected by the
Special Cell on March 13, according to the charge
sheet. Ordinarily, the passage of that much time
between the date the items were allegedly left
behind and their discovery would call into
question the authenticity of the evidence.
On July 28, a few days before the charge
sheet was made public, the manager of the hotel
produced an occupancy chart showing that Irani's
room had not been used during the 16 days between
his departure and the police order to seal the
The chart, which the hotel manager
had plenty of time to prepare for the police,
makes the highly unlikely claim that Irani's room
was not occupied by any guest during the 16-day
period. The effort to show that the room had not
been altered after Irani left it still fails to
address the awkward question of how so much
evidence could have been found in Iranis room long
after it would have been cleaned up by hotel
The belated occupancy chart only
makes the forensic evidence claimed by the police
appear even more suspicious.
"disclosures" portray an alleged plot that lacked
either clear delineation of responsibility for
reconnaissance of the embassy or the communication
one would expect between the plotters in Tehran
and their one local collaborator in Delhi during
the crucial months before the explosion.
At one point in a statement attributed to
Kazmi but not signed by him, he is portrayed as
having returned to Delhi from a trip to Tehran in
January 2011 committed to intensive research on
"security arrangements and the movement of
vehicles and routes travelled to Israeli Embassy".
In discussing Iranis visit to Delhi in
April 2011, however, it does not mention any
debriefing of Irani by Kazmi on such
reconnaissance. Instead, Irani is said to have
carried out the entire reconnaissance operation,
with Kazmi's help, all over again. When Kazmis
disclosure comes to the visit of his Tehran
contacts, Seyed Ali Mehdiansadr and Reza
Abolghasemi, to Delhi in May and June 2011, it
makes no reference to any discussion of the
reconnaissance Irani had supposedly already done.
The two visitors and Kazmi are said to have
repeated the same reconnaissance on the embassy
yet again, even noting the licence plate numbers
of embassy cars.
An even more dramatic
divergence from a coherent account of a terror
plot is found in the long final Kazmi statement
dated March 23 but unsigned by Kazmi. In
describing Kazmi's trip to Tehran in June 2011 the
statement says Kazmis alleged key contact in the
plot, Mehdiansadr, "inquired about the progress of
the task assigned me".
But the disclosure
statement then says the "task" in question was not
gathering detailed information on potential
Israeli Embassy targets, but sending "reports on
the political developments in the Gulf region,
like Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, etc".
and August, the same disclosure recounts, Kazmi
travelled to Dubai and Syria, and when he
communicated with his Tehran contacts, it was not
about intelligence for a bombing plan but about
his Dubai trip.
asserts, in fact, that he did not report to his
Iranian contacts on any intelligence gathered on
the Israeli Embassy between June 2011 and January
2012, despite allegedly having been given a mobile
phone specifically for that purpose.
questionable character of the police case that the
four Iranians conspired on the Delhi bombing does
not rule out the possibility that it was an
Iranian government operation, but it does indicate
that SC investigators could not find convincing
evidence of such an Iranian role.
story is the second in a three-part series, "The
Delhi Car Bombing: How the Police Built a False
Case", in which award-winning investigative
journalist Gareth Porter dissects the Delhi police
accusation against an Indian journalist and four
Iranians of involvement in the February 13 bombing
of an Israeli embassy car. For Part One, see here.
Gareth Porter, an
investigative historian and journalist
specializing in US national security policy,
received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for
journalism for 2011 for articles on the US war in