Police in Thailand issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday for an ”unidentified foreign man” shown in a security video leaving behind a backpack just minutes before a deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine, but acknowledged they’re not sure of his nationality.
Police also released a sketch of the man they believe carried out Monday’s bombing and offered a 1 million baht ($28,000) reward for help leading to his arrest. But apart from the rough portrait, authorities had few solid leads.
At a news conference earlier in the day, the national police chief expressed uncertainty about the man’s origin. Somyot Poompanmoung said the suspect ”looks like a foreigner” but ”might have been in a disguise and wearing a fake nose” to conceal his identity.
Two days after the attack, which authorities have called the worst in Thai history, the open-air Erawan Shrine reopened to the public. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast that left 20 people dead and more than 120 injured at one of the capital’s busiest intersections during evening rush hour.
A grainy security video shows the man, wearing a yellow T-shirt and shorts, sitting on a bench at the shrine, taking off a black backpack and leaving it behind as he stands up and then walks away. Time stamps on the video show he left the shrine 15 minutes before the explosion, which struck just before 7 p.m.
”If citizens or anyone can give us information or clues that lead to the arrest of this man, I have set a reward of 1 million baht,” Somyot said, adding that police believe the bomber worked with accomplices.
”He didn’t do it alone, for sure. It’s a network,” Somyot said. Police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri said the security video appears to show two possible accomplices standing in front of the man who are also considered suspects.
Police composed the sketch based on the video and a description provided by a motorcycle taxi driver believed to have given him a ride on Monday night.
The sketch shows a young man in eyeglasses with bushy, dark hair that is cropped at the sides. The warrant describes him as tall, with a pointed nose and thick lips. He faces six charges including conspiring to commit premeditated murder and conspiring to commit a bombing that resulted in death and severe injuries.
The attack has raised concerns about safety in a city that draws millions of tourists.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ”is worried about the security of people and tourists in Thailand,” the police chief said.
Prayuth has called the attack ”the worst incident that has ever happened in Thailand” and vowed to track down those responsible.
The Erawan Shrine is a revered spot among Thais and tourists that transcends religion. It is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, but is extremely popular among Thailand’s Buddhists as well as Chinese tourists.
Although Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, Hinduism has an influence on its religious practices and language. The shrine’s location adds to its popularity, offering an open-air place for prayer amid the capital’s gleaming shopping malls and five-star hotels.
On Wednesday morning, a stream of people arrived at the shrine, kneeling in prayer, lighting incense and placing flowers at the site where 36 hours earlier the explosion scattered body parts across one of the capital’s busiest intersections. Buddhist monks in saffron robes joined members of the public to chant prayers.
Among those who paid respects was an office worker, Nuansupha Sarunsikarin, who expressed shock and sadness over the attack.
”I’m depressed for those innocent people who had to pay for something they’re not involved with and now have no chance to live their lives,” Nuansupha said.
Thai authorities identified six victims as Thai and four as Malaysians, along with four Chinese, two people from Hong Kong including one British citizen, one Indonesian and one Singaporean. Two victims remain unidentified.
Bangkok was rattled by a second blast Tuesday at a popular ferry pier which exploded in the Chao Phraya River and caused no injuries. Prawut said the explosion at the Sathorn Pier frequented by river ferries and tourist boats also was caused by a pipe bomb and could be related to the shrine attack. Security video showed a sudden blast of water over a walkway at the pier as bystanders ran for safety.
Thailand has seen many violent attacks in recent years, particularly in a more-than-decade-long insurgency by Muslim separatists that has killed over 5,000 in the country’s south. Those attacks have never reached the capital, however.
Bangkok has seen politically charged violence in the past decade; the deadliest, in 2010, killed more than 90 over two months and was centered on the same intersection where Monday’s bomb went off. But none of those attacks included a bomb that seemed intended to produce mass casualties.
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