The mysterious foreign-looking man wearing a yellow T-shirt seen in CCTV footage dumping a backpack containing a bomb at the Erawan Shrine mid-August minutes before a powerful blast killed 20 people at the popular attraction has finally been identified.
No, no new arrest has been made; police simply figured out in the end that the first suspect they arrested nearly four weeks ago in connection with the bomb blast is actually the yellow-shirted prime suspect himself.
Two days ago, the Bangkok Post first reported that unnamed “security sources” had all of a sudden “found new evidence” implicating yet again the first detained suspect.
Adem Karadag, who claims to be naturalized Turkish citizen originally from Xinjiang, China, named Mohammed Bilaturk, was arrested on August 29 in a rented apartment on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok where police also found bomb-making material and dozens of fake Turkish passports.
One of the fake passports “identified” him as Adem Karadag; his real identity and nationality however remain unconfirmed. He has also denied any involvement in the bomb plot
According to Karadag’s lawyer, his client had moved from China’s Xinjiang province to Turkey in 2004 where he was granted Turkish citizenship and worked as a truck driver. The 28-year-old Uighur Muslim allegedly entered Thailand only four days after the blast and was en route to Malaysia, where he was going to seek a job as a truck driver.
But on Thursday, the Bangkok Post reported,
according to the latest evidence and investigation, authorities suspect he might be the perpetrator of the Erawan shrine blast (…)
Some of the evidence comes from CCTV footage shot in Lumpini Park showing a yellow-shirted man suspected of planting the deadly bomb at the shrine going into a toilet in the park, where he changed his shirt to a grey one. The man seen in the footage leaving the toilet resembles Mr Karadag, the sources said. After leaving the park, he took a public bus to the apartment in Nong Chok [where Karadag was arrested later].
Mr Karadag has a long scar on his arm, while the yellow-shirted suspect seen in the footage had straps around both of his arms, the source added.
What is more, Karadag allegedly confessed:
According to the sources, the new evidence was shown to Mr Karadag (…) and he allegedly admitted to being the yellow-shirted suspect who disguised himself, wearing a wig and glasses.
However, shortly after the Bangkok Post and three other Thai newspapers broke the story, a police spokesman and the suspect’s lawyer both came out to deny the allegations. According to Khaosod English, the police chief also played down reports of Karadag’s alleged confession:
Police are not yet convinced. I don’t want you to conclude that this news is correct until there is evidence that matches [his confession], because since Mr. Adem was arrested, in each interrogation, Mr. Adem has changed his testimony.
But then yesterday, the national police chief had changed his mind again and told reporters that
although police do not yet have solid evidence to substantiate the charge, he personally thought Mr Karadag looked very much like the man in the yellow T-shirt filmed by surveillance cameras who is believed to have placed the bomb at the shrine.
The police chief said that “the evidence police had to hand” had prompted Karadag to confess:
The evidence included a photo of a man wearing a grey shirt at a toilet in Lumpini Park, not too far from the bombed Hindu shrine.
The man in yellow was believed to have changed his clothing in the toilet. Police believed the grey-shirted man was Mr Karadag. Police also found a similar grey shirt in his rented room at the apartment building [where he was arrested].
Although the police chief acknowledged they “needed more evidence” against the suspect, as it happens, a police spokesman told the media Saturday morning that the case was wrapped up once and for all:
It is confirmed that Adem is the man in the yellow shirt based on CCTV footage, eyewitness accounts and his own confession. After he placed the bomb at the shrine he called a motorbike taxi and changed his shirt at a restroom in (nearby) Lumpini Park.
So that’s it. Period. Full stop. Easy as pie, ain’t it?
Police also allege that Yusufu Mieraili, the second suspect in the bombing police arrested earlier this month, used a mobile phone to trigger the bomb from a location near a shopping mall a stone’s throw from the blast location. The police chief has been quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post:
Today, police are confident Adem and Yusufu are the real attackers. Adem is the yellow-shirted man who planted the bomb. Yusufu is the one who exploded the bomb [using a mobile phone he later threw into a canal].
Both suspects face a multitude of charges and were taken by police Saturday afternoon to undergo an elaborate re-enactment of their crimes, a standard Thai police procedure geared also towards the media. Khaosod English however note that “there was no incontrovertible evidence incriminating any of the suspects”:
Asked what supported the belief Bilal [a.k.a. Adem Karadag] and [Yusufu] Mieraili carried out the attack, [the national police chief] cited witnesses, CCTV footage, “accurate” re-enactments, confessions and “a special technique by high-tech equipment, which is classified.”
also confessed he had planted another bomb at the Chao Phraya Princess pier on Soi Charoen Krung 61 at 4.30pm on Aug 17. However, the bomb failed to detonate, the source said.
The blue-shirted man [who has been identified as Zubair Abdullah and whose current whereabouts are unknown] then retrieved the bomb, moved it and dropped it in a canal near the Sathon pier [where it went off] the next day (…) but no one was injured.