Suspect in custody unlikely to be Bangkok bomber

Published 10:08 am Friday, September 4, 2015

BANGKOK — A foreign suspect arrested at the border near Cambodia is unlikely to be the yellow-shirted man seen in security videos and suspected of planting a deadly bomb at a Bangkok shrine, but is definitely a conspirator, police said Friday.

The apparent ruling out of the suspect — identified as Mieraili Yusufu or Yusufu Meerailee — as the main perpetrator suggests that the person who bombed the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok on Aug. 17 could still be at large despite two arrests and the naming of seven other suspects in recent days.

The evening blast at the shrine popular among Thais and tourists alike left 20 people dead and more than 120 injured in one of the most devastating acts of violence in Bangkok in decades.

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Thai authorities have suggested that at least two of the suspects are possibly Turkish, boosting a theory that the bombing was to avenge Thailand’s forced repatriation of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China in July. Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community.

National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said DNA samples taken from the suspect did not match the DNA found on evidence that the bomber is believed to have left behind — in a taxi, on banknotes, and on a motorcycle taxi he took on the night of the attack. The bomber is believed to have left the pipe bomb in a knapsack at the open-air the shrine when it was packed with worshippers during evening rush hour.

“Now we don’t have any evidence to say that he is the yellow-shirted man,” Prawut told reporters.

“However, he is definitely involved with the bombing,” Prawut said about the suspect, who was arrested Tuesday at the border with Cambodia.

The suspect’s DNA or fingerprints were found in two apartments that were raided by police last weekend on the outskirts of Bangkok, Prawut said. Police say both apartments contained bomb-making materials, and one had more than 200 fake Turkish passports.

“He was staying at both places,” Prawut said. “This means that the man is involved in bomb-stocking places.”

Another suspect, who was arrested at one of the apartments on Saturday and placed in military custody, was taken Friday to Bangkok police headquarters. Armed soldiers wearing body armor escorted the man, who possessed a fake Turkish passport when he was arrested. Police have also identified seven other suspects for whom arrests warrants have been issued.