Thai Authorities Catch Second Suspect in Shrine Bombing

Pimuk Rakkanam

2015-09-01
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150901-TH-suspect-620 Thai police display a picture of a man wanted for possessing bomb-making materials, Sept. 1, 2015.
AFP

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET on 2015-09-01

Thailand has arrested a second foreign suspect in the bombing of a Hindu shrine in central Bangkok last month, but authorities are still searching for others involved in the plot, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha said Tuesday.

“It is good if we can find them, who did it,” Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok, saying the investigation into who carried out Thailand’s deadliest-ever bombing was moving along slowly but surely.

“Today we arrested another one, which is important and is likely connected with another we arrested the other day. As far as we know, they are not Thais,” he added, referring to Tuesday’s arrest of a suspect near the Thai-Cambodian border.

The military arrested a “prime suspect” in the Aug. 17 bombing of the Erawan Shrine around midday in Aranyaprathet, a town in Thailand’s eastern Sakaeo province, National Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri told reporters separately.

“The security forces arrested him while he was trying to cross the border,” Prawut told a press conference at the National Police Bureau on Tuesday evening.

The suspect’s nationality was not yet known, according to Prawut. The man was flown to Bangkok and was being interrogated with the help of a “native language translator,” he said.

The suspect resembles the police sketch of a man in a yellow shirt who was filmed leaving a backpack at the Erawan Shrine moments before an explosion there killed 20 and injured more than 125, the police spokesman said.

“His face and appearance is similar so the security forces arrested him for illegal entering and exiting the country,” Prawut said.

Local reports said the man was being held and interrogated at the Military Circle 11 in Bangkok.

Police will use fingerprinting, DNA tests and witnesses to identify the man, Prawut said.

“Based on initial evidence we have, we confirmed that he is the key perpetrator in the same gang with another suspect we already have arrested, and he is part of the group that attacked Bangkok with two bombs. We are confident to confirm [this],” he said.

A second explosion that harmed no one took place Aug. 18 near a busy commuter pier in Bangkok.

Seven suspects

A total of seven arrest warrants have now been issued in connection with the attacks, Prawut said.

The first arrest took place Saturday, when a 28-year-old man was picked up during a raid by authorities on an apartment in suburban Bangkok.

Officials said they recovered bomb-making components and a stash of passports from a foreign country from the apartment. They also seized a Turkish passport bearing the suspect’s photograph and a name – “Adem Karadag” – but Thai officials said the document was fake.

Interrogation of the first suspect led authorities to issue arrest warrants for an unidentified foreign man and a 26-year-old Thai woman identified as Wanna Suansan. Her whereabouts are unknown, but news reports quoted her relatives as saying that she was now living in Turkey.

Arrests warrants are out for four others: an unnamed man in a blue shirt linked to the Aug. 18 bombing at the Sathorn riverside pier; another unidentified foreign man; and two suspects named as Ahmet Bozoelan and Ali Johan.

‘We don’t want to point fingers’

After the first suspect’s arrest, the Turkish embassy issued a statement saying that Ankara was ready to assist Thai authorities in apprehending those who carried out the bombing at the shrine.

In his remarks Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth indicated that Thai authorities were still trying to determine whether there was a Turkish connection to the attack.

“But we should not talk too much, otherwise it would jeopardize relationships,” Prayuth said. “If it becomes clear that [Turks] did it, in the future we can ask for Turkey’s cooperation.We don’t want to point fingers at each other,” Prayuth said.

“There have been contacts with the embassy. It said there was no Turkish involvement, but the possibility is higher every day,” the Thai leader added.

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