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Bangkok bomb suspect is 'Turkish national': Thai military

Filed on August 29, 2015

An arrested suspect of the recent Bangkok blast is shown in this Thai Royal Police handout.
(Reuters)

National police chief General Somyot Poompanmoung speaks to reporters outside the compound where police detained a suspect in the August 17 Bangkok shrine bombing.
(AFP)

Officials said the suspect arrested during a raid had bomb-making materials and multiple Turkish passports in his possession.

A man arrested in Bangkok in connection with a recent deadly blast at a religious shrine is a Turkish national who was found with multiple passports, a senior military officer said on Saturday.

"He is a Turkish national," Colonel Banphot Phunphien, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) said.

"He carries many passports. It's unusual how he carries so many passports," Banphot added.

Police and military seized the 28-year-old man during a raid at a flat in an eastern suburb of Bangkok on Saturday morning, discovering bomb-making components as well as dozens of passports.

During a televised press conference, national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said officers had found "several passports belonging to one country" at the suspect's flat but declined to say which nation.

However as he was speaking, pictures of dozens of Turkish passports wrapped in rubber bands were broadcast as well as the photo passport page of a 28-year-old Turkish national named Adem Karadag.

"He is most likely related to the bombing," deputy police chief Chakthip Chaijinda said of the suspect. The August 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine in one of Bangkok's most upscale shopping districts left 20 people dead, including several foreigners, and more than 120 people injured. Authorities have called it the most deadly attack in Thailand's modern history.

The man was arrested in Nong Jok on the outskirts of eastern Bangkok.

"We found bomb materials in his apartment," Chakthip said.

The blast at the 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.

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 neighbourhood 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.


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