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Officials: ‘Highly Unlikely’ Bangkok Bombing Work Of Foreign Terrorists

Photo caption:

Photo by AP

This image, released by the Royal Thai Police, shows a man near the Erawan Shrine before an explosion occurred Monday in Bangkok.

Thai officials are downplaying the possibility that a foreign terror group is behind the bombing in in central Bangkok this week that killed at least 20 people, including foreign tourists, and wounded dozens of others.

A government spokesman said it was "highly unlikely" that a foreign network was behind Monday's attack nor did he believe that Chinese tourists were the targets.

The Erawan shrine, where the attack took place, is popular with visiting Chinese. Three Chinese nationals were killed in the blast and another 15 were wounded.

Predominately Buddhist Thailand has experienced a long-running Islamist insurgency in the country's south, where there is a Muslim majority. Several bombings have occurred there over the years.

But Army chief Udomdej Sitabutr said on television Wednesday that the attack "does not match with incidents in southern Thailand (and) the type of bomb used is also not in keeping with the south."

Although authorities appear to have ruled out foreign terrorism, the arrest warrant for a man in a yellow t-shirt seen in a CCTV video leaving a backpack at the blast site moments before the explosion describes him as an "unnamed foreigner" and accuses him of a conspiracy to commit "premeditated murder" and weapons offenses. Authorities placed a $28,000 bounty on the suspect.

"He didn't do it alone for sure," police chief Somyot Poompanmoung was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

"It's a network," he added, saying he was certain that Thai citizens were involved in the bombing.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha appears to be pointing the finger of blame in the direction of the political opposition, which supports former Prime Ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck. Both leaders were ousted in military coups, the second of the two led by Prayuth, a former army chief.

Speaking on television Tuesday evening, Prayuth said the attack shows that Thailand "still has a person or a group of people with hostility to the nation operating actively," according to a translation published in the English-language Bangkok Post.

"They may be doing it for a political motive or to undermine the economy or tourism or for other reasons," he said.

Prayuth told reporters that the man must have been hired to plant the bomb. In the past, the government has accused Thaksin, a former telecom tycoon now living in exile, of paying political activists to stir up opposition to the country's military government.

However, as Michael Sullivan reported for NPR earlier this week, independent analysts cast doubt on the notion that the bombing was carried out by so-called "Red Shirt" partisans.

Anthony Davis, a Bangkok-based security analyst with IHS Jane's, is quoted by Singapore's Straits Times as saying it is "highly unlikely" to be the work of the Red Shirt opposition "given the scale of casualties, to be (related to) Thai politics - which would be aimed at sending messages and avoiding casualties."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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