say 28-year-old man had bomb-making materials and passports at apartment on the
Oliver Holmes in
Damien Gayle and agencies
Policemen stand guard in front of the Erawan Shrine following the blast.
Photograph: Guillaume Payen/NurPhoto/Corbis
Thai police have arrested a foreign man in connection with the bomb attack on a Hindu temple in central
that killed 20 people, the first potential breakthrough in a
case that appeared to have stalled. Bangkok
Police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said the arrested man was 28 years old and thought to be part of a network that carried out the deadly attack two weeks ago as well as a smaller explosion that caused no injuries one day later. “Our preliminary investigation shows that he is related to both bombings,” he said.
Police found parts of bomb-making materials, such as detonators, and a metal pipe, apparently meant to be used as a bomb. “We also found a number of passports,” Prawuth said. Photographs of ball bearings, as well as what appeared to be a stack of Turkish passports, were shown during the police broadcast.
Police have not said whether the man is the prime suspect, captured on CCTV dropping a black rucksack off at the blast scene minutes before the explosion. Until now, that footage has been the main evidence in the investigation into the worst peacetime bombing in
’s history. Thailand
Prawut did not confirm or deny that the arrested man was also the man caught on security cameras: “We believe he is a culprit in the same network. More details will be given later.”
Police chief, Somyot Pumpanmuang, later hinted at the motive, saying the arrested man was “taking personal revenge for his comrades”, without giving further details. “It’s unlikely to be terrorism. It’s not an international terrorist act,” he told a news conference.
Thai media published photographs of a man who did not appear to be Thai, in a yellow shirt and beige shorts sitting in front of two police officers with his hands cuffed. In front of him lay plastic bags which reports said were full of bomb-making materials. He had light brown hair and a short beard.
Police arrested the man on Saturday in Nong Jok, on the northern outskirts of
. Authorities had previously said they were
looking for a foreign man and had sent plain-clothed officers to bars and
restaurants frequented by foreigners to try to find the suspect. Bangkok
Police said 100 officers were involved in the operation to arrest the man and that he was being questioned. Police have released a photo of the man’s passport, which appears to be badly made, with two expiry dates shown. The document appeared to be a Turkish passport, belonging to a man born in 1987.
During the two-week investigation, police released a detailed electronic sketch of the prime suspect, showing a thin man with dark, shaggy hair and a light complexion, wearing black-rimmed glasses and wristbands on both arms.
The image has been widely circulated in
, including on roadside billboards, along
with offers of a reward for information leading to an arrest. The total reward
on offer from both police and private citizens last week stood at more than £200,000. Thailand
Immigration officers at
’s international airport have a printout of
the digital sketch of the suspect caught on CCTV on the night of the bombing. Some
sketches show him without glasses, wearing a hat or with no hair. Bangkok
Police are yet to determine a clear motive for the bombing at the Erawan shrine – an attraction popular with Chinese tourists as well as Thais – which also left more than 120 people injured. Dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, it is also popular among Buddhists. It sits on a corner of a central
intersection, near suit tailors, five-star
hotels and restaurants. Authorities say the blast on 17 August was caused by a
pipe bomb. Bangkok
The Turkish passports shown on Saturday caused Thai media to speculate that ethnic Uighur, a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority from
’s western Xinjiang region, might be behind
the bombing. China forcibly returned 109 Uighurs to Thailand in July, angering the community and causing
an outcry from human rights groups and the United Nations who said they could
face persecution and abuse. Many Uighurs have fled to south-east China Asia hoping to then travel to , which has strong cultural links to the
group and has sheltered them for decades. Turkey
Observers have also suggested that separatists in the south who have been waging an insurgency for years could be behind the bombing, but they have never carried out a large-scale attack on foreigners.