Tuesday, August 18

More about suspect in Bangkok Erawan Shrine bombing LAST UPDATED 8:35 AM EDT 8/19

1. CCTV video footage of Erawan bombing suspect from the BBC, posted at YouTube (copied below)  But the CTTV video shown at Reuters seems to be uncut, unlike the one shown by BBC.

2.   The Reuters report describes what is shown in the CCTV video:
The man suspected of Monday's bombing at the Erawan shrine was seen in grainy CCTV footage entering the compound wearing a backpack, sitting down against a railing and then slipping out of the bag's straps.
Wearing a yellow shirt and with shaggy, dark hair, the young man then stands up and walks out holding a blue plastic bag and what appears to be a mobile phone. The backpack was left by the fence as tourists milled about.  
[Pundita note:  From later reports today police have definitely stated the video shows he placed the backpack under the bench he was sitting on.  The video is a little unclear, but I'm assuming the police ran it in slow motion.] 
National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang said the suspect could be Thai or foreign.
"That man was carrying a backpack and walked past the scene at the time of the incident. But we need to look at the before and after CCTV footage to see if there is a link," Somyot told a news conference. [...]
However, the video seems to show the suspect putting his backpack under the bench he was sitting on, and a CNN report from 5:43 am EDT 8/19 mentions that this is what he did.   

3. From Associated Press updates filed in Bangkok, posted at The Washington Post 2:56 AM EDT 8/19:
3:45 p.m.
Thai police are offering a reward for information on bombing suspects.
Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri says in a tweet that 1 million baht — equivalent to $28,080 — is being offered for any word on bomber or bombers suspected of planting the explosive device that went off at a downtown shrine on a busy Monday evening, killing 20 people and wounding nearly 130 others.
4. From another Reuters report 8/19:
Police Major General Pornchai Suteerakune, commander of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, said the bodies of almost all the dead at the shrine were wounded by silver ball bearings that were packed into the bomb.
5. To my knowledge Thai police are still saying the bomb was TNT but whether they're still calling it a pipe bomb I don't know.  From today's CNN report, there are still questions about what kind of bomb it was and how it was detonated.

6.  From one of the Reuters reports, the police are dismissing rumors that the suspect was disguised, but they seemed to be focusing on his clothing when they talk about the rumor.  I'd guess the rumors are that in addition to the big glasses he could have been wearing a wig. 

Still photos from CCTV video footage of bombing suspect with and without backpack

Photo supplied by the Bangkok metropolitan police

CTTV video of suspect 

UPDATE 8:25 PM EDT 8/18

This is jumping ahead but Bob Baer questions whether the device used in the Erawan Shrine attack was a pipe bomb. Baer is a counterterrorism analyst from way back, and long before he went to work for CNN.  See more below under "Questions about explosive device."  

A CNN news team in Bangkok reported today (4:00pm EDT):
Police said Tuesday they are hunting for a suspect seen in CCTV footage who they believe is connected to the bombing, which ripped through crowds gathered near the Erawan Shrine on Monday evening, killing at least 22 people and reportedly injuring about 120.   
In one CCTV image released by police, the man carries a dark-colored backpack near the shrine. In another, he no longer has the backpack. He's wearing a yellow T-shirt and dark-framed glasses.
Royal Thai Police Commissioner Gen. Somyot Poompanmoung said authorities don't yet know the man's identity or whether he is Thai or a foreigner.
At a later news conference, police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri said authorities were "very sure" the man in the yellow shirt was the bomber.
The commissioner said the man sat down at 6:52 p.m. local time (7:52 a.m. ET) Monday and hid the backpack underneath a bench.
Investigators believe he likely left a pipe bomb.
Regarding the second explosion, which was intially reported as being from a grenade thrown from Taksin bridge not far from Erawan Shrine, the CNN report mentions:
[A] new explosion was heard Tuesday at a pier on the Chao Phraya River that flows through Bangkok, police told CNN. No injuries were reported and the pier has been closed, said Prawut.
It was unclear whether the two blasts were connected.
But the second explosion was caused by the same type of bomb as the earlier one, Prawut told reporters late Tuesday.
Police are looking into the possibility that Tuesday's blast happened when someone on a motorcycle threw a bomb toward the pier, he said.
The second bomb fell into the water, he said.
8:25 PM UPDATE from a RT report on the second explosion (Aug 18 - last updated 13:19):
An explosive device has been thrown from Bangkok’s Taksin Bridge into the Chao Phraya River. Police have not reported any injuries. Law enforcement has said reports of a separate blast near a railway station are erroneous.
The explosive, believed to be a pipe bomb, landed in the water near a pier where a number of ferry companies operate, taking tourists around the city’s waterways.
Colonel Natakit Siriwongtawan, deputy police chief of the Klongsan district, said that an unidentified man threw the explosive near a busy pier on the city’s Chao Phraya River, and that it landed in a canal.
"If it had not fallen in the water, then it certainly would have caused injuries," he said, as cited by Reuters.
Assistant National Police Chief Prawut Thawornsiri said the device was thrown from the bridge, but hit a pillar and bounced into the canal. Police Lieutenant General Prawut believes the perpetrator wanted to throw the bomb onto a busy pedestrian platform leading to the pier, but missed.
CCTV footage taken at the time of the explosion showed people running down a causeway over the canal to escape the blast, according to the Bangkok Post.
Regarding the death toll that CNN cites, the Bangkok Post reported today the authorities had downgraded the number to 20 from 22 and that the higher figure was due to intial confusion because there were so many body parts to catalogue.  The Post reports the number of wounded at 125.  

Now to jump back to the CNN report:
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Thai authorities haven't made any announcements about who they believe might be behind it.
Somyot, the police commissioner, said cryptically on state-run TV that authorities had been warned about possible attacks, but they didn't know where or when they might occur.
Analysts say it's unclear which group would want to carry out the shrine attack, which is likely to hurt Thailand's tourism industry, a key part of the economy.
Questions over explosive device
Cunningham, the paramedic who witnessed the aftermath of Monday's attack, said the bomb was "obviously designed to cause maximum damage and death" and was "really unlike the bombs that the Thailand political groups use."
Thai state media cited Somyot, the police chief, as saying the device that exploded was a pipe bomb wrapped in white cloth.
But CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer expressed skepticism.
"With that much damage, that many deaths, it's very unusual," he said. "It would be a very sophisticated pipe bomb -- they don't usually kill that many people."
The capital, which was convulsed by political unrest last year, has experienced small-scale bomb and grenade attacks in the past. Two devices exploded at an upscale shopping mall in February but didn't cause any casualties.
But Monday's attack was of a different magnitude.
"It is by far the most devastating attack that Bangkok has seen -- or Thailand has seen, for that matter -- as far as I can remember," said Joseph Liow, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies.
"CITY BOMB HORROR" blared a Tuesday headline in the Bangkok Post.
Puzzle over who might be behind bombing
Observers say the attack doesn't fit with the campaign of violence mounted by Islamic insurgents in Thailand's far south, near the border with Malaysia.
"Their complaints are very local, and they have tended to attack military and security targets," said CNN global affairs analyst Bobby Ghosh. "They have not really committed a terrorist attack of this nature against civilians, much less tourists. This does not seem to bear their fingerprints."

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