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Wednesday, August 19

CNN: Thai police say suspect in Bangkok Erawan shrine bombing had accomplices UPDATED 8:50am EDT

UPDATE 8:50am EDT

Reuters:  Thai police hunt 'foreign' man, two others for Bangkok blast
Police spokesman Prawut Thawornsiri also said investigators were now convinced two other men seen on the grainy video footage were accomplices. ... He said two other men, one dressed in red and another in white, were seen milling around the first suspect, apparently shielding him from the view of the crowd as he placed the rucksack in front of a railing.
From the above passage in the Reuters report, posted 8:27am EDT today, there is still disagreement in the accounts about whether the suspect placed the backpack next to a railing or under a bench. Maybe the tiebreaker is that he placed the pack under the bench next to the railing?

See also this Washington Post report from this morning:

Police sketch of Bangkok bombing prime suspect; CCTV shows two possible accomplices

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> See my post from 5:51am EDT  this morning, Bangkok bombing: "We have suspects. There are not many people", which highlights an extensive report from an Australian news site. From the report it could be the police have more information or leads on the prime suspect than they've shared with CNN.  

>  There have been conflicting reports about whether the bomb set off near the Erawan Shrine was left against a railing or placed under a bench. The CCTV video footage is not very clear, but was probably run in slow motion by police and from this, CNN reports that the police are saying he placed the backpack under a bench. 

>  The CNN report below mentions that the police have identified and interviewed the driver of the taxi that the prime suspect took after he left the Erawan shrine area.  

(Update: From the WaPo report regarding the police sketch, it seems the taxi driver may have come forward on the belief that he drove the suspect.)

Police: Suspect in Bangkok shrine bombing had accomplices

By CNN reporters Jethro Mullen (reporting from Hong Kong), Pamela Boykoff and Kocha Olarn (reporting from Bangkok)

Updated 5:43 AM ET, Wed August 19, 2015 | Video Source: CNN

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) The man suspected of carrying out the deadly bombing of a popular shrine in the heart of the Thai capital likely had accomplices, Thai police said.

Examination of surveillance video footage from the Erawan Shrine indicates at least two other people were helping the main suspect in the attack that killed 20 people and wounded more than 120 on Monday evening, police officials told a news conference Wednesday.

Authorities are hunting for the man seen on a surveillance video putting a backpack under a bench in the shrine and then walking away shortly before the blast went off.

Beyond the yellow T-shirt and dark-framed glasses he was wearing, little is known so far about the man who police say they are "very sure" is the bomber.

Here's where things stand with the investigation into the attack, which authorities have described as a deliberate act of terror:


The suspect

Police say they don't yet know the suspect's identity or whether he is Thai or a foreigner.

They are studying more than 10 days' worth of CCTV footage from the scene to try to find out more.

The surveillance footage from Monday evening shows the suspect in the yellow shirt sitting down on a bench in the shrine at 6:52 p.m. and hiding the backpack under the bench, according to police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri. The man left the scene without the backpack and the blast went off minutes after he set it down.

Police also noted that the suspect had material wrapped around both of his forearms, which they say could indicate he had previously sustained some kind of injury.

Investigators have questioned the motorcycle taxi driver the suspect used after the explosion, Prawut said Wednesday without providing details on what he told them.

A reward of one million Thai Baht ($28,000) is being offered for information leading to the suspect's arrest, he said.

The device

The blast at the shrine was caused by a pipe bomb containing wheel bearings, according to police.  [Termed "silver ball bearings" in a Reuters report today]

Investigators believe the explosive device was assembled in Thailand because many of its parts, including the pipe, were made in the country, Prawut said.

CNN security and intelligence analyst Bob Baer said it was unusual for a pipe bomb to kill so many people and cause so much damage.

"It would be a very sophisticated pipe bomb," he said.

Another blast that struck near a river pier in Bangkok on Tuesday was caused by a similar device, Prawut said. That explosion went off in the water and didn't hurt anyone, but it was still "quite big," he said.

Royal Thai Police Commissioner Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung said Wednesday that investigators were so far unable to establish a link between the two explosions, adding that they have no leads on who might be behind the Tuesday blast.

The motive

There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing, and comments from Thai officials have so far been vague.

"From this incident, it is apparent that there are active individuals or groups that harbor the intention to damage Thailand, who may be pursuing political gain or other intentions by damaging the economy and tourism," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Tuesday.

Analysts have speculated about a wide range of groups -- including opponents of military rule in the country or a rogue faction in the army or police -- but there is so far no evidence to link the attack with any of them.

Asked Tuesday if there was any information on a possible motive for the attack, police spokesman Prawut said it was too soon to reach any conclusions.

The victims

Thai authorities still haven't identified all of those killed in the bombing, many of whom were from other countries.

The shrine is a popular tourist site and sits at a busy intersection near a big shopping mall.

China's state-run news agency reported that six Chinese citizens, two of them from the special administrative region of Hong Kong, were killed. Malaysia's national news agency Bernama said that four Malaysian citizens, all from the same family, were among the dead.

Officials have said that five Thais, a Briton and a Singaporean also died in the blast.

Police had put the overall death toll at 22, but on Wednesday they revised it down to 20, saying the confusion had arisen from the sheer number of body parts scattered at the scene.

[...]

The Erawan shrine

Monks in orange robes on Wednesday chanted and prayed for departed souls at the shrine, which bore the scars of the powerful blast that tore through the crowd of visitors on Monday evening.

A golden statue of the four-headed Hindu god Brahma was missing most of one of its jaws. Fresh cement had been poured over the crater caused by the explosion. 

[Pundita note:  From photos the shrine looks as if it sustained amazingly little damage.

Tributes of flowers were piled on a table and pinned to the railings outside the shrine. "Rest in peace," read one paper sign attached to a barrier.

Some people prayed, others took photos.

The site is popular among Buddhists as well as Hindu and Sikh members of Thailand's Indian community.

CNN's Pamela Boykoff and Kocha Olarn reported from Bangkok, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Elizabeth Joseph and Laura Smith-Spark and journalist Kiki Dhitav contributed to this report.

[END REPORT]

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