What sort of person would plant a bomb in a Bangkok shrine, killing and maiming locals and tourists alike in an indiscriminate attack? Thailand and the world may be closer to knowing the answer after the first arrest this weekend in connection with the attack two weeks ago.
A prime suspect, a foreigner holding a Turkish passport, was arrested on Saturday in Bangkok’s eastern suburbs in connection with the Erawan Shrine bomb attack. The man, 28, has since been charged, media reported yesterday.
The bomb attack in Bangkok killed 20 people and wounded over 100.
Images of a man planting a backpack at the scene were captured by closed-circuit TV and an enhanced image was widely circulated. A driver who took the suspect to the scene said the man was speaking a foreign language and was not a Thai.
Saturday’s arrest is the first in connection with the atrocity, which killed mostly Asian visitors and was Thailand’s worst single mass-casualty attack.
A large squad of police and military officers, including bomb disposal experts, converged on a block of flats in the Nong Chok district, a run-down and predominantly Muslim area on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok, on Saturday.
The man is said to have been in possession of bomb-making equipment and multiple passports.
A search of his rented apartment is reported to have revealed a large quantity of materials used for making explosives, including ball bearings the same size as those used in the bomb at Erawan Shrine and also placed in another bomb that went off near Sathorn Pier the following day, without causing casualties.
Thailand’s English-language Nation newspaper reported that fuses, short steel pipes with caps on both sides, and clothes bearing traces of explosive substances were all found in the suspect’s room.
“We believe that the suspect was involved with the bombing”, Royal Thai Police spokesman Lieutenant-General Prawut Thavornsiri said on a live televised broadcast. He added the suspect “looks like the one we are looking for”.
The suspect, aged 28, holds a Turkish passport under the name Adem Karadag although the name and the passport may be fake. He is not thought to be the man who planted the bomb but is suspected to be implicated in building the device. He is not cooperating with police.
Police are reported to have received a tipoff from the suspect’s landlord, whose suspicions were aroused because the suspect did not speak Thai and had rented five rooms on the same floor since late July.
The Bangkok Post, however, reported that the breakthrough came after investigators spent over a week sifting through every mobile phone call made near the shrine around the time of the bombing.
Three Turkish phone numbers were found which had activated international roaming services and were in use near the blast site.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald today says a mysterious Turkish neo-fascist Islamic terrorist group called Grey Wolves “have emerged as key suspects”.
Previous speculation about those responsible, and their motives, has ranged from rival factions within Thailand (though that is unlikely because they have never carried out such a major indiscriminate attack before), Islamists angry at Thailand’s forced repatriation to China last month of more than 100 members of China’s ethnic Uighur Muslim minority, international jihadists out to kill tourists, or home-grown Islamists from Thailand’s southern Malay-Muslim insurgency.
Written by Peter Needham