Thai woman wearing Islamic head-scarf named as suspect in Bangkok bomb blast
Bangkok police have named a Thai woman wanted for questioning about the lethal shrine explosion as they said they were seeking two new suspects after bomb-making material was found in a second apartment in the city’s outskirts.
Investigators released a photograph of the woman, identified as Wanna Suansan, 26, showing the suspect wearing a hijab – the Islamic term for the head-scarf – in a picture from an identity card.
Ms Wanna is the first suspect named in the investigation into the August 17 bombing.
She was said to have been living with an unidentified foreign man in an apartment where police found explosives, electric wiring and timing devices after a tip-off. A photofit of the new male suspect was also released.
Officers arrested a man carrying a fake Turkish passport in a raid on another apartment on Saturday in the first major breakthrough in the investigation into Bangkok’s worst terrorist atrocity.
They also recovered bomb-making equipment, including the sort of ball-bearings used in the atrocity that killed 20 people at the Erawan shrine as well as another blast the next day that caused no injuries.
The scale of explosives material discovered at the two locations appears to indicate that more bomb attacks were planned in the Thai capital.
“We found fertiliser bags, watches, radio controls – parts to make bombs and electric charges,” said Prawut Thavornsiri, the national police spokesman.
The material were discovered during a raid in the north-eastern suburb of Minburi on the apartment that Ms Wanna is believed to have rented. Although Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, it has a significant Muslim population in the south and in parts of Bangkok.Minburi is near the district where an unidentified foreigner was arrested on Saturday, allegedly in possession of bomb-making paraphernalia including detonators and ball-bearings as well as dozens of fake passports.
Police said that the man was tracked down after investigators trawled through tens of thousands of phone signals picked up near the blast site and narrowed them down to three Turkish mobile phone numbers that activated international roaming services.
The arrested man was carrying a fake Turkish passport in the name of Adem Karadag, 28. But his identity remained unclear and Turkish diplomats said they did not believe he was a Turk.
In the wake of arrests and seeking more suspects, Thai police awarded themselves a 3 million baht, or £55,000, reward offered to the public for tips leading to the arrest of suspects/
Somyot Poompanmoung, the national police chief, said that he was taking the unusual step of giving the reward to the police force both to motivate his officers and to show that Thailand’s police are good at their job.
“This money should be given to officials who did their job,” he said at a news conference as aides brought out stacks of 1,000 baht notes.
It was not immediately clear how the money would be distributed to police officers.The suspected Turkish connection to the blast has fuelled suspicion that the worst terrorist atrocity in Bangkok’s history might have been carried out by or with support from an extremist faction called the Grey Wolves.
The ultra-nationalist Right-wing Turkish terrorist group might have committed the atrocity in retaliation after Thailand recently deported a group of ethnic Turkic Uighurs to China in the face of protests.
There have been no claims of responsibility for the bombing, that claimed the lives of six Thais and 14 visiting ethnic Chinese Asian tourists. Thais and Chinese could be targets for the Grey Wolves, security analysts noted.
Thai police said they believed that the suspect detained on Saturday was part of crime group that supplied counterfeit documents to illegal migrants. But a claim by police that the bomb attack could have been conducted in retaliation for a recent crackdown by Thai authorities on such crime gangs was greeted with scepticism by security experts.
The ruling junta has been keen to play down any suggestion the attack was launched by international terrorists or specifically targeted Chinese tourists.
They have said that they believe that the bombings were the work of a network of foreigners and Thais.