Here’s a bit of an update into the investigations into the bomb blast at Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine mid-August that killed 20 people and injured more than 120. The police investigation appeared to have stalled recently and Thai police even accused the media of hindering the work by investigators by revealing too many details on the possible whereabouts of the suspects.
Now Malaysian police say they have arrested two men who may the prime suspects in the bomb attacks – the yellow-shirted foreign-looking man seen on CCTV dumping a backpack believed to contain the explosive at the Erawan shrine minutes before the fatal detonation, and an Asian-looking man in a blue shirt who was seen on surveillance cameras kicking a device into Bangkok’s Chao Praya river less than half an hour later. The second bomb exploded harmlessly the next afternoon and caused no injuries.
Malaysian police said the two suspects had been smuggled across the Thai-Malaysian border illegally by two Malaysian men. They had earlier also nabbed one Pakistani national and two Malaysians suspected of being members of a human trafficking gang that had given shelter to the suspects.
Malaysian police have now sent photos of the two men detained in Kuala Lumpur to Thai security agencies who will check if the pictures match the characteristics of the yellow- and blue-shirted men captured on CCTV.
The Thai national police chief, however, noted today it was “still not confirmed” whether one of the two men nabbed in Malaysia was actually the prime suspect wanted in the Erawan Shrine blast.
UPDATE (September 23) – According to Khaosod English, Thai deputy police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, who will succeed the current police chief in October, flew to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday
chasing rumors reported in Thai and Malaysian media that two men identified as the Bangkok bombers were arrested there Saturday.
But upon his return to Bangkok today, Police Gen. Chakthip dismissed the reports.
“There has been no arrest of the bombers,” he said, explaining he had traveled to the Malaysian capital to confirm the story with police there. “Investigation and efforts to track these two down are ongoing,” (…)
A total of eight suspects have now been arrested in Malaysia. Four are Malaysian nationals involved in human trafficking. The other four are believed to be ethnic Uighur Muslims from China.
UPDATE (September 24) – As for the hunt for the mysterious yellow-shirted man believed to have planted the bomb hidden in a backpack at the Erawan Shrine minutes before the deadly blast, the Bangkok Post reports now that unnamed security sources have “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. He has categorically denied any involvement in the bomb plot.
But, the Bangkok Post reports now,
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.
Then again, even the Bangkok Post’s unnamed sources have acknowledged that “the investigation is ongoing to verify if he really is the bomber,” so obviously Karadag may not be the bomber and it’s all just false alarm.
More importantly, shortly after the Bangkok Post and three other Thai newspapers published related reports, the police spokesman and the suspect’s lawyer both came out to deny the allegations. According to Khaosod English, the national 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.
This indicates that Karadag may have indeed confessed but police still doubt the veracity of his confession.