Mystery man in Bangkok bomb probe 'never said a word'

national August 31, 2015 12:35

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The evidence seized by police investigating Thailand's deadliest bombing includes an apparently damning trove of explosives, fertiliser, and piles of fake passports, but the shabby-looking foreigner they arrested on Saturday remains a mystery.



There has been no word of his nationality, affiliation orwhether the evidence seized in a shabby Bangkok apartment block amounts to a smoking gun for the attack on a crowded downtown shrine that killed 20 people two weeks ago.

Reuters interviews with neighbours, investigators and the community in the city suburb of Nong Chok paint a picture of a reclusive and secretive Muslim who seldom ventured beyond thefour rooms he occupied in the grimy orange and cream-coloured building.

Police have been tight-lipped - at times cryptic - about theman they indicate is the chief suspect caught on camera leavinga bag at the site of a bombing that shook Bangkok's bustlingcommercial heart.

They are checking DNA samples and calls made from his phone, but have not indicated the man has said anything since his arrest.

According to a couple who rent a room on the same floor, thesuspect was not alone and shared the accommodation with a man ofsimilar ethnicity, who was last seen on Friday.

"There's another; he's much taller," said the man, whorequested anonymity because he feared for his safety.

The couple said they instantly recognised the images onnewscasts that went viral on social media of the thin, beardedman with a pale complexion and tightly cropped hair.

They had seen him sometimes kneeling and praying in thecorridor. On the rare occasions he was spotted outside, heappeared focused and walked with purpose.

"They're very quiet neighbours," said the man. "The tallerman buys food for them."

A person matching the second man's description had spokenonly a few words of English while at a nearby food stall,according to vendors who last saw him on Thursday.

TRANSIENT COMMUNITY

Many Thai Muslims and foreigners live in Nong Chok, an areaof cheap rents and short leases, where there are colleges,factories, rice paddies, mosques and streets dotted with halal restaurants.

Residents said the suspect was inconspicuous in a transientcommunity of foreigners and university students in the sprawl ofone of Asia's most cosmopolitan capitals.

"The building often has foreigners renting rooms," saidKhantree Srisombat, 42, who lives in the same block. "It's normal here."

The building owner who gave only his first name, Anant, saidthe lease contracts were signed using Turkish identification,but not by the arrested man.

When security forces burst into the building to make thearrest, the man declined to speak, even through a Turkishtranslator, according to a plain-clothes special branch officerwho joined the raid.

The officer spoke to Reuters on condition his name bewithheld and said two rooms were strewn with bomb-makingmaterials, including urea fertiliser, TNT, C4, sodium carbonate,large plastic and steel containers, a fuse line, flashlights,screwdrivers and tape.

"The suspect never said a word," the officer added.

Among the passports seized, some had images of the same man,bearing the name Adem Karadag, purportedly Turkish, with birthdates of 1987 and 1985.

Official comments about the man have been opaque, andassessments given often without explanation.

Thai police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang on Saturday insistedthe bombing was not terrorism and declared the man's motive was"taking personal revenge for his comrades".

On Sunday security forces searched a low-budget buildingused by many Muslim residents in nearby Min Buri district.Deputy district police chief Susak Parakkamakul declined to saywhether any evidence was found.

Across the road, worshippers at the Al Madanee Mosque, thelargest in the area, said they had never seen the suspect.

"I pray here five times a day, every day, and I've neverseen him," Qasim Ghulam Mohammad said after prayers on Sunday.

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