A fake Turkish passport holder was arrested Saturday afternoon at a rented room in Bangkok’s eastern Nong Chok district on suspicion of involvement in last week’s Erawan Shrine bomb attack that killed at least 20 people.
Police had earlier received a tip-off by his landlord that a foreigner who “looked like the suspect” in the deadly attack rented five rooms on the fourth floor of the apartment building on Soi Chueam Samphan 11 since late July.
About 100 police and soldiers, including a dozen bomb disposal specialists, surrounded the budget apartment block on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok for two hours before moving in at about 1.30 p.m.
A large quantity of bomb-making materials were found in the five rooms rented by the suspect, including 0.5-mm ball bearings similar to those used in the bombs that detonated at the Hindu shrine and the Sathorn pier last week. Police also uncovered multiple passports, a detonator, batteries, electrical wires, a metal pipe, chemical containers, and “clothes with traces of explosive substances”.
The unnamed 28-year-old whose nationality has not been confirmed was taken by military officers for questioning and is being held at an undisclosed military camp. According to a police spokesman, he was initially charged with “illegal possession of bomb-making materials such as ball bearings” and “pipes to use as a bomb container”.
Police initially described the suspect as a Turkish national, however later conceded that a passport identifying him as “Adem Karadag” had two expiry dates and was fake. Police are further quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying:
We found dozens of passports inside his room. We have to check which nationalities they belong to.
Police also conceded that the detained man might not be the key bombing suspect seen on CCTV images dumping a backpack at the Erawan Shrine himself but say he is “most likely” connected to the attack and other key suspects.
As previously suspected, the yet unidentified 28-year-old appears to be part of a larger network. Prior to the arrest, the national police chief has been quoted as saying,
plainclothes police and volunteers with language skills had been sent to mingle with foreign tourists at places frequented by the suspects and near their accommodations over the past few days. The information led officers to believe that several people including Thais were involved.
The arrest appears to confirm the theory that the attack was linked to Thailand’s deportation of 109 Uighur Muslims to China last month. Speculation had mounted earlier this week after regional security analyst Anthony Davis from IHS-Jane raised the possibility of the involvement of the Grey Wolves, a right-wing Turkish militant group.
The ultra-nationalist Pan-Turkic movement has vocally adopted the Uighur cause in recent years and is said to have been angered by the Thai military government’s deportation of the Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslims. Members of the Grey Wolves reportedly took part in attacks on the Thai consulate in Istanbul early July in apparent retaliation for the deportation. The Grey Wolves allegedly also have close ties to Turkish mafia gangs in Bangkok.