Key blast suspect 'a foreigner'

national August 20, 2015 01:00

By THE NATION
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Police believe he had two accomplices; Somyot offers Bt1 million reward for info leading to arrest



POLICE said yesterday that they believe the suspect of the deadly explosion at the Erawan Shrine is a foreigner and the two other men seen in CCTV footage near the scene are his accomplices.

 National police spokesman Pol Lt-General Prawut Thavornsiri said the person in red and the person in white captured on security camera were also suspects in the attack that killed at least 20 people, mostly foreigners, and injured more than a hundred others. 
The arrest warrant obtained yesterday accuses an unnamed foreigner of premeditated murder, attempted murder and bomb making. The man could be of mixed origin, the spokesman said.
Police released a sketch of the prime suspect yesterday, and offered a reward of Bt1 million for information leading to his arrest. 
Meanwhile two motorcycle taxi drivers claimed to have picked up the key suspect, with one saying he picked the man up often in the morning. 
The suspect was captured on security camera arriving at the shrine with a backpack, and leaving without it shortly before the explosion. 
The police sketch shows a fair-skinned man with thick, medium-length black hair and dark eyes, a wispy beard and black-framed glasses.
National police chief Pol General Somyot Poompanmuang said police believe the attack is the work of a network and that the suspect had others, possibly Thais, helping him. 
“The suspect did not act alone. The perpetrators shared the job, ranging from staking out the targeted area, mapping an escape route and assembling the explosives,” he said, adding that he thinks the bomb was assembled in Thailand. Somyot also said he believes the suspect is likely to have been in Thailand for at least three years, as he knew the area well. 

Meanwhile, Nikom Pantula, a motorcycle taxi driver at Sathorn Soi 10, identified the suspect, saying the young man frequently used his service to go to Asoke intersection at about 5.30am. He usually appeared to be in a hurry and spoke both Thai and English. 
“He always had a black cloth around his arms and wore black glasses,” he said.
Another motorcycle taxi driver, Kasem Puksuwan, 45, believes he gave a ride to the suspect after the man left the shrine on Monday. He met the police yesterday and told them about the route the suspect took. He said he had dropped the man off at Lumpini Park. 
 “We have drawn the sketch of this suspect based on pictures we retrieved from security cameras and the description given by a witness,” Prawut said. 
Many security cameras captured the suspect’s movements on Monday evening. Recording from one camera showed him getting off a tuk-tuk in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel at 6.36pm and walking towards the shrine.
Prawut said both uniformed and plainclothes police officers were now working at key transport facilities and communities to watch out for any suspicious persons. 
Meanwhile, immigration officials at Sa Kaew checkpoint are now strictly screening foreigners with a “Middle-Eastern appearance”. On Tuesday night, a Frenchman who looked like the suspect was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport. However, nothing was found after checks and a search of his room, and he was released yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, said the suspect should report himself to the authorities in the interest of his own safety. “I am concerned that he could be silenced,” he said.
On Tuesday, another bomb hit the railing of a bridge and fell into Chao Phraya River near Sathorn Pier in Bangkok. The blast splashed water, but did not cause any harm. Had it hit the pier, there could have been a great number of casualties.
“We plan to erect sandbag walls around the affected site and pump out as much water as possible. Members of the bomb squad team will then dive down to look for the evidence,” Prapassorn Kularb said yesterday in his capacity as the public works chief of the Sathorn District Office. 
In a related development, a bomb hoax caused a brief public scare in Bangkok yesterday afternoon. An ordnance team was summoned to a stairway at BTS Nana Station after a suspicious item was spotted. 
The team examined the item and found that it was just cardboard covered with black bag and adhesive tape. “We suspect that someone placed the item there to cause a public scare or as a wild prank,” a police officer said. Lumpini Police Station vowed to hunt down the persons behind this bomb hoax. 

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