Thai police say bomb-making tools found on shrine attack suspect match those used in both Bangkok blasts
Police in Bangkok said on Saturday they have arrested a 28-year-old foreign man with a collection of fake passports who was “likely involved” in a deadly bomb attack at a shrine in the Thai capital nearly two weeks ago.
“I am confident that he is likely involved with the bomb attack,” deputy national police chief General Chaktip Chaijinda told reporters in a live televised broadcast.
Thai security forces raided an apartment in Nong Jok on the outskirts of eastern Bangkok earlier in the day and discovered detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe that was likely intended to hold a bomb, a police spokesman said.
“The bomb materials are the same, similar or the same type” as those used in both bombings, police chief Somyot Poompanmoung told reporters, adding that the suspect had traveled in and out of Thailand since January 2014.
A second bombing at a Bangkok pier one day after the blast at Eshrine resulted in no casualties but amped up fears in the capital, which is no stranger to violence and unrest.
“He is a Turkish national,” Colonel Banphot Phunphien, a spokesman for Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), told Agence France-Presse.
“He carries many passports. It’s unusual how he carries so many passports,” Banphot added.
But Chaktip suggested there was still uncertainty as the man’s true nationality.
The Thai police said they do not think he is the actual bomber.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that two men had been arrested, but this ran contrary to remarks and statements by the Thai police.
Thailand’s worst single mass-casualty attack occurred during evening rush hour in the city’s Ratchaprasong shopping district on August 17 and resulted in 20 casualties, including 14 foreigners,with over 120 injured.
Among the dead were at least six Chinese nationals, including four from the mainland and two young women from Hong Kong. At least 30 more Chinese were wounded by the blast.
WATCH: Video captures bomb explosion at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine
Shortly after news of the arrest was made public on Saturday afternoon, the Thai Royal Police supplied handout photos of the detained man.
Police earlier in the week released stills taken from security camera footage of a suspect in a second bombing at a Bangkok pier one day after the shrine attack, which resulted in no casualties.
It was unclear whether the man detained Saturday was the same person shown in the blurred photos by the pier.
Police seemed to lean against him being the suspect captured in grainy footage of the shrine shortly before the first blast went off, but were confident he had some connection to both incidents.
“Our preliminary investigation shows that he is related to both bombings,” said spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri.
The suspect “looks like the one we are looking for” in connection with the shrine blast, he added.
The bomb that tore through the city’s crowded Erawan shrine was unprecedented in the Thai capital, where smaller bombs have been employed in domestic political violence over the past decade, but not in an effort to cause large-scale casualties.
WATCH: Bodies hauled away as fires still rage in the aftermath of the blast
The shrine is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Chinese visitors, who represent an important segment of the lucrative tourist market. At least six of the dead were from China and Hong Kong. It is located in a neighborhood full of upscale shopping malls and five-star hotels.
Soon after the bombing, police released an artist’s sketch of a man seen in a security camera video leaving a backpack at a bench then walking away from the open-air shrine. A separate camera showed the man, wearing a yellow T-shirt, on the back of a motorcycle taxi leaving the site.
An arrest warrant earlier had described the unknown suspect as a “foreign man,” although a military spokesman said a connection to international terrorism seemed unlikely.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, sparking a variety of theories into who might be behind it.
Possible suspects include parties seeking to avenge Thailand’s forced repatriation of ethnic Uighurs to China, Muslim separatists from southern Thailand, opponents of Thailand’s military government and feuding factions within the security services.
Criticism of the police investigation has been strong because few facts were clearly established, including the type of explosives used in the bombs.
Authorities were also accused of rapidly hosing down the crime scene at the shrine before all forensic evidence was recovered so it could be reopened to reassure the public – especially foreign tourists – that security in the city was back to normal.
Police say they have been handicapped by low-quality and broken surveillance cameras and a lack of sophisticated image-processing equipment to enhance the video they do have.
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 August, 2015, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 August, 2015, 11:57pm