Turkish embassy refutes reports Bangkok bomb suspect is Turkish citizen
The unidentified foreigner, who is being held in military custody at an undisclosed location, was captured during an Aug. 29 morning raid on a flat on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok.
Investigators say he was found with bomb-making equipment and dozens of fake passports, including a Turkish passport that was made public after the arrest.
Turkey requested further information from Thailand through diplomatic channels and via Interpol. However, the embassy in Bangkok denied reports that the suspect was a Turkish citizen, Doğan News Agency reported on Aug. 30.
Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwong also called on both the media and Thais to “be patient.”
“Don’t talk about Turkish or not Turkish,” Wongsuwong told Agence France Presse. “We have to investigate.”
National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said officers believed the suspect was part of a criminal group who helped illegal migrants obtain counterfeit documents - and that the bomb attack was retaliation for a recent crackdown by Thai authorities.
“They [the gang] are unsatisfied with police arresting illegal entrants,” Thavornsiri told Thailand’s Channel 3 in a telephone interview without elaborating how investigators knew this.
“It’s a network that fakes nationalities and sends them [illegal migrants] onto third countries,” he added.
The blast that hit the Erawan shrine in a busy Bangkok shopping district on Aug. 17 was Thailand’s worst single mass-casualty attack, killing 20 people - most of them ethnic Chinese tourists from across Asia.
Thai authorities have played down any suggestion that the attack was launched by international terrorists or specifically targeted Chinese tourists.
Police raided a second location and widened their search for more suspects on Aug. 30, Reuters reported.
Authorities said police were monitoring about 1,000 mobile phone numbers and checking photographs used in around 200 seized passports to track down members of an unspecified group they believe orchestrated the Aug. 17 attack, according to the Reuters report.
Police and residents in Bangkok’s Nong Chok district said the suspect rented four rooms on the same floor of the rundown building. A special branch officer, who declined to be named, said the suspect said nothing when the arrest took place.
A man and woman living on the same floor told Reuters the suspect did not live alone and they had seen a taller man with similar appearance entering and leaving several times each day. They had not seen the second man since Friday.
“We’ve seen two of them, frequently,” said the man, who requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.
The detained man was reclusive but always appeared focused and walked with intent. They said he was sometimes seen on his knees praying outside the room.
“I still feel danger,” the woman said. “We don’t know if the other man has been arrested.”