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Bangkok Bombings: Latest Updates and How to Follow the News

2015 08 19bkkbomb

A and I returned to Singapore Monday morning after a couple of weeks of traveling. Then that evening came the sad news about the bombings in Bangkok.

From our latest WSJ story:

Thai police said they were homing in on a suspect seen in security-camera footage of the bomb blast that killed at least 20 people, most of them foreign tourists, in the Thai capital.

A second explosive device on Tuesday was thrown from a bridge over Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. The bomb narrowly missed a busy pier where commuters waited for taxi boats, falling into the river where it exploded. No one was injured.

The blast, which threw a column of water into the air, deepened the sense of unease in a city where many commuters chose to stay at home and some tourists avoided the usually bustling malls and temples of downtown Bangkok.

The Economist has more on the context:

Low-level political violence is not uncommon in Thailand—which is riven by a kind of class war in which two military coups have succeeded in less than ten years—but the attack on August 17th was unprecedented in scale. The blast, caused by a pipe stuffed with TNT, did only relatively moderate damage to the shrine itself and the buildings that surround it. But timed to explode during the evening rush hour, and positioned at an intersection often packed with shoppers and tourists, it was designed to kill and maim a maximal number of bystanders. The dead included visitors from China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. A young girl was among the injured.

Meanwhile, this dash cam footage shows the force of the Erawan Shrine bomb:

วินาทีระเบิดที่แยกราชประสงค์ วันที่ 17 สิงหาคม 2015 ภาพจากกล้องในรถผมครับ

Posted by Pimornrat Nana Puttayot on Monday, August 17, 2015

Quartz has a roundup of pics and videos.

For ongoing updates, here’s my public Twitter list of more than 100 media people in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.

I especially recommend longtime Thailand blogger Richard Barrow, who frequently tweets information of interest to tourists and others in the city.

3 More Iranians Questioned over Alleged Bangkok Bomb Plot

The AP reports today:

Thai investigators questioned three more Iranian citizens Monday for possible links to an alleged bomb plot that was discovered in Bangkok on Valentine’s Day.

National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said that two men and one woman were found Sunday during a search of an apartment in the capital that had been rented by an Iranian woman who is also wanted in the case.

And:

One of the those questioned was 33-year-old Madani Seyed Mehrded, Piya said. He said Mehrded had been in contact with other detained suspects, including an Iranian man who blew his legs off by mistake as he fled police on Feb. 14.

Immigration police chief Police Lt. Gen. Wiboon Bangthamai later told reporters that two of the three questioned Monday had been released. Mehrded is still being held, but Wiboon said he had denied being involved in a bomb plot.

Elsewhere, the Bangkok Post reports today:

Three more Iranians were detained by the police yesterday on suspicion of involvement in the bombings on Sukhumvit Soi 71 on Feb 14.

The three detainees — two men and one woman — were identified as Madani Seyed Mehrded, Rahimi Rad Iraj, a chef at a hotel in Soi Nana, and his wife Mahboobh Tasbehi.

They all live in the Naza Vegas building in Watthana district, where fellow Iranian suspect Leila Rohani also lived.

Mr Mehrded, 33, was detained yesterday afternoon when police raided a room on the 14th floor of Naza Vegas.

The police seized a computer, a mobile phone and some other objects from the rental apartment for inspection.

And:

The call logs on the Sim cards showed Mr Mehrded had regularly communicated with the two suspects by mobile phone, police said. On Feb 14, he allegedly was waiting for the other suspects in front of the Israeli embassy on Asok Road, police said.

MCOT also has a story today along with some images, presumably of Mehrded.

Iranian Bomb Supspects Update: ABC News Has Photos of What Appear to be Explosive Device Hidden in Radio

ABC News has the images and reports:

Forensic photographs obtained exclusively by ABC News show an undetonated explosive device that was designed to be a part of a failed bomb plot in Thailand. Three Iranian suspects were arrested last week for their alleged involvement in the plot which fell apart when a similar device apparently exploded in an accident at the house where the Iranians were staying

Click through to see the pics.

AP: “Big questions still unanswered in Thai terror plot”

The AP has a story today summing up the last week’s events:

It began when three men blew up their house accidentally on Valentine’s Day in Bangkok. It ended with a gory scene that looked more like Baghdad: a bloodied, would-be bomber with severed legs moaning on a glass-strewn sidewalk after another botched blast.

Last week’s explosions in the Thai capital announced the apparent arrival of international terrorists in this Southeast Asian nation, revealing a plot allegedly aimed against Israeli diplomats. But big questions remain about who was behind the plot, and why.

There’s also this bit, which I haven’t seen reported elsewhere:

Moradi turned onto a main road as police began moving in. One of them, Sgt. Panphum Rakkuson, said the Iranian pulled a rectangular-shaped box out of his backpack and threw it toward the officers.

“We were stunned and couldn’t do anything but stand there,” Panphum said.

The bomb, though, got caught on something, and hit the ground next to Moradi and exploded, instantly shredding both his legs below the knee.

Panphum said Moradi reached out for a piece of broken glass from the sidewalk and drew it toward his neck, as if he was trying to kill himself.

More on ‘SEJEAL’ Stickers and Iranian Bombing Suspects

2012 02 21 bkk post

Following up on a Tweet I sent last night:

Today’s Bangkok Post — a pic of the front page is above — has more on the “SEJEAL” stickers and the Iranian bombing suspects. The Post says:

City police are looking into possible links between last week’s central Bangkok bomb blasts and the posting of a string of stickers with an enigmatic message, a source said.

Fifty-two stickers bearing the word “Sejeal” were found posted along a road in Klong Toey district.

They were similar to stickers found at the house where the first of three blasts occurred on Sukhumvit Soi 71 on Feb 14, at another house on Ramkhamhaeng Road rented by suspect Leila Rohani, 31, and under the seat of a seized motorcycle believed to belong to one of the suspects.

The posted stickers were put up on either electricity posts or large signboards starting from an area under a footbridge on Duang Phithak Road in Klong Toey, which runs parallel to the expressway heading for southern Phloenchit Road.

The stickers’ trail ended at the mouth of Soi Ruam Rudi near Phloenchit BTS station.

The total coverage of the sticker-posting was about 1.5 kilometres.

The source said investigators believed the bombers used the stickers to mark spots where bombing attacks could be carried out.

And:

Police believed Israeli officials often travelled along Duang Phithak Road, which eventually leads to the Asoke area, where the Israeli embassy is based.

The word “sejeal” may refer to a passage in the Koran that tells of a miracle when birds from heaven dropped “sejeal stones” on an army riding elephants from Yemen who were attempting to kill Mohammed, scaring the animals and saving the prophet’s life.

Here are larger images from today’s paper:

2012 02 21 bkk post suspect

And a pic of one of the stickers in question:

2012 02 21 bkk post sejeal

Elsewhere, a Google Image search reveals a few pics in the Thai media of a what looks like police examining several other “SEJEAL” stickers around Bangkok.

(All emphasis mine.)

(Images: Bangkok Post.)

Iranian bomb suspects update: AP says Thai Tourism Min. Suspends Visa on Arrival Plan for Middle Eastern Travelers

2012 02 20 bkk post moto

The AP ran a story yesterday that said:

Unwinding with bar girls at a beach town came first. Building bombs was allegedly for later.

The three Iranians detained in Bangkok and accused of plotting to attack Israeli diplomats set priorities during their trip to Thailand. They spent several days at a seaside town in the company of prostitutes, soaking up the sun and sin that has attracted many of the world’s unsavory characters.

The “Land of Smiles” has long been a favorite haven for criminals — from Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to gangsters, drug smugglers and pedophiles — drawn by its open-door visa policy, lax law enforcement and huge variety of white sand beaches.

Thailand’s tourism industry rakes in more than $25 billion in revenue a year, accounting for more than 6 percent of the economy. But officials are now questioning if they should roll back the welcome mat a little.

And:

Within days of the terror scare, the Thai Tourism Ministry put on hold a plan to allow visas on arrival to citizens of Middle Eastern countries, including Iran.

Indeed, you can see the much-discussed image of the Iranian men hanging out with their Thai “escorts” — as the Bangkok Post put it — in Pattaya in my previous post.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday that police found a motorcycle — pictured above — they say was purchased by one of the Iranian bombing suspects:

Iranian bombing suspects may have been planning to use a motorcycle to attack their targets in Bangkok.

Police on Saturday found a motorcycle that had been left in Sukhumvit Soi 71 since Tuesday when three bomb blasts rocked the area.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Bangkok Post: Iranian Bomb Suspects ‘Partied in Pattaya’

2012 02 17 iranians pattaya

Three stories to mention today:

1. Today’s Bangkok Post has this story and photo:

PATTAYA : Officials at the Immigration Department’s Chon Buri office yesterday identified a Thai woman in Pattaya who had escorted the Iranian bomb suspects during their stay in the resort town.

Her account, and photographs taken with her mobile phone, could help authorities confirm whether the suspects know one another.

2. In another story on Thailand’s international airports, the Post says:

Security is being beefed up at the country’s six international airports which could become possible new targets for acts of sabotage following a terror warning by Israel, national police chief Priewpan Damapong says.

Pol Gen Priewpan yesterday told the Transport Ministry to place the international airports, under the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), on high alert as Israel has warned terrorists may be targetting them.

A government source said Israel had advised police directly to boost security at airports, based on intelligence reports it had received.

3. And finally, The Nation says a bomb expert in his 50s could be connected to the men:

One of the four Middle East men captured by security cameras during the blasts in Bangkok on Valentine’s Day was suspected to be a bomb expert who passed on his bombmaking skills to the other three, police said yesterday.

And:

According to a source at the national security agency, prior to the first explosion at the suspects’ rented house near Sukhumvit Soi 71, witnesses said they saw an Iranian man in his 50s and 150160cm tall going out of the house with a large luggage case at about 7am.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Update on Explosions: ‘Police Hunt 5th Bomb Suspect’

2012 02 17 bkk post explosions

The Bangkok Post reports this evening:

Police will seek an arrest warrant for a fifth suspect in Tuesday’s bomb explosions in Bangkok based on information from eyewitnesses and security camera footage, deputy police chief Pansiri Prapawat said on Thursday.

Pol Gen Pansiri said the fifth suspect was also a man of middle-eastern appearance. The other four suspects have been identified as Iranians, one of them a woman.

Police were checking if he was still in the country.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

Bangkok Explosions: Nation, Quoting Police Sources, Says Bombs ‘Were in the Form of Portable Radios’

The Nation today says:

According to police sources, two improvised bombs found at the house were in the form of portable radios, stuffed with C-4 explosives. Hand grenades with the safety lever removed were inserted in the radio units to be used as the detonator.

Small metal balls were also put in the units intended as shrapnel. There were six flat round metal plates with a diameter of 2 centimetres attached beneath the radio bomb units, each weighing about 2 kilograms.

Contrary to media reports that Morabi used two hand grenades while on the run, police sources said he used two radio bomb units, out of a stock of five. One went off in the first accidental explosion in the rented house, two were used by him and two others were found in the house.

The radio bombs went off five seconds after their grenades were activated. They had a blast radius of about 40 metres and kill radius of about 3-5 metres, the sources added.

Bangkok Explosions Update: Photo of Iranian Woman Reportedly Wanted by Police (February 16, 2012)

2012 02 16 bkk post iranian woman

Today’s Bangkok Post reports:

The suspects involved in Tuesday’s multiple bombings in Bangkok were part of the same network of terror involved in bomb incidents in India and Georgia earlier this week, according to Itzhak Shoham, Israeli ambassador to Thailand.

While the target of the bombs was not clear, “we can assume from the other experiences that we were the target,” he said.

And the Post is running the photo, above, of an Iranian woman reportedly wanted by police:

Police investigators yesterday sought court arrest warrants for all three Iranian suspects being held in custody, as well as an Iranian woman, Rohani Leila, who is suspected of having arranged for the rental of the Sukhumvit Soi 71 home.

Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports:

Iranians arrested after blasts on a Bangkok street aimed to attack Israeli diplomats, and the devices used were similar to bombs targeting Israelis in India and Georgia this week, according to Thailand’s police chief.

“The suspects targeted Israeli diplomats in Thailand,” Priewphan Damaphong told reporters in Bangkok yesterday, hours after he confirmed that the Bangkok bombs contained magnets designed to attach to vehicles. India’s initial investigations suggest that a magnetic device was attached to an Israeli diplomat’s car on Feb. 13 in New Delhi seconds before it exploded injuring the woman, the city’s police commissioner, B.K. Gupta, has said.

“The type of explosive device is similar to the incident in India,” Priewphan told reporters in Bangkok. The men “were not targeting a place.”

Meanwhile, the WSJ says:

Some terrorism analysts experts, such as Will Hartley, head of the Terrorism & Insurgency Center at IHS Jane’s, question whether Iran really is behind all of the attacks. He noted that the attacks appeared amateurish and inconsistent with campaigns masterminded by the Iranian military’s elite Quds Force or Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that is supported by Iran.

Others, though, suggest the recent wave of bombings shows that Iran is willing to use any means possible to demonstrate to Israel and the U.S. that it is willing to strike anywhere in the world, even if it means outsourcing attacks to less-experienced operatives.

“This is Iran’s way of responding to pressure,” said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “These are low-tech, unsophisticated attacks and sometimes poorly executed. But they are designed to show that the reach of Iran and its proxies is increasing….I think we will see further attacks.”

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

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