Friday 15 December 2017

Bangkok shrine bomber part of terrorist network, warn police

Philip Sherwell in Bangkok

The Bangkok shrine bomber who planted the home-made device that killed at least 20 people "didn't do it alone" and was part of a "network", Thailand's police chief has said.

As the police manhunt continued for the young man who was seen in security camera footage apparently leaving the lethal pipe bomb, the holy site that he targeted for the slaughter re-opened.

With prayers chanted by Buddhist monks and floral garlands and incense sticks laid by devotees, the gates to the open-air Erawan shrine were open again barely 36 hours after the horrors witnessed there at rush hour on Monday evening.

Thai police believe that a second failed attack on Tuesday, when the same sort of pipe-bomb was thrown towards a busy river pier but exploded in the water, was linked to Monday's blast.

"He didn't do it alone for sure," Sowmyot Poompanmoung, the national police chief, said when asked about the man pictured in the CCTV footage leaving a backpack at the location where the bomb exploded. "It's a network."

As the police intensified their search for the accomplices, they also offered a reward of one million baht (€25,000) for information leading to the capture of the bomber.

Image released by Thai police shows a man wearing a yellow T-shirt near the Erawan Shrine before an explosion occurred in Bangkok, Thailand.
Image released by Thai police shows a man wearing a yellow T-shirt near the Erawan Shrine before an explosion occurred in Bangkok, Thailand.
A woman prays at the Erawan shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in Bangkok. Photo: Reuters
Relatives of Chinese victims from Monday's deadly blast cry at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Bangkok

"We are also looking for other suspects in connection with the blast," said police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri. "These types of attacks are not usually planned by one person alone."

There have been no claims of responsibility for the attacks that have targeted the city's tourist and commercial hubs. The junta-ruled country has been plagued by political turmoil and faced a long-running Islamic insurgency in the south, but has never suffered an atrocity on this scale.

Among the tributes left at the Hindu shrine were bundles of clothes and money to honour a Malaysian family who suffered a terrible price in the attack. Of seven close relatives who visited the shrine on Monday evening, five were killed in the blast (see panel).

Yesterday, Thais and Asian visitors paid their respects in what could have seemed like a regular scene at the shrine to Brahma, a Hindu deity also worshipped by Buddhists.

But although the flower-sellers were back and the bloodstains had been washed away and debris removed, there were still the enduring physical signs of the savagery.

One of the four-faces of the Brahma statue bore gouge marks inflicted by the blast.

Samti Yimlamai, a bank worker, visited the shrine as he does every day on the way to work.

"It's a special day, but also a regular day," he said. "We won't be scared away."

Wong Keen Yee, a Malaysian IT worker, placed garlands in front of each of the four faces of Brahma, a deity to whom believers pray for good fortune and protection. "I come here whenever I am in Bangkok," he said. "I did have doubts about coming today, but the security seems tight. It felt important to be here this morning."

The shrine is popular among ethnic Chinese tourists from east Asia, and the attack killed at least 11 visitors from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as several Thais.

The victims included Vivian Chan Wing-Yan (19), a British- Hong Kong student.

(© Daily Telegraph London)

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