Najib vows to act after blast rocks KL tourist belt

Najib vows to act after blast rocks KL tourist belt
Malaysian police bomb squad personnel carry out investigations after a grenade exploded in front of the Sun Complex.

In a dramatic, pre-dawn incident, a grenade exploded outside an entertainment outlet in Kuala Lumpur, killing one person and injuring 13 others, including a Singaporean.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed to punish the culprits, whose actions could hurt the country's already-hobbled tourism industry.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the violence that occurred this morning in Bukit Bintang," said Datuk Seri Najib.

"Such lawlessness will not be tolerated. Police investigations are under way and the perpetrators of this crime will be found and brought to justice," he added.

Police suspect that a turf war between gangs is behind the bombing. The initial fears were even more dire as some thought it was a terror attack.

These concerns were soon laid to rest but the blast could hurt the popular tourist hangout.

Police said two "military grade" hand grenades were thrown outside the Cherry Blossom karaoke club in Sun Complex, off Jalan Bukit Bintang, at about 4.30am.

Only one grenade exploded. The police bomb disposal squad later detonated the other grenade at about 12.30pm, with a big crowd of people looking on from afar.

Sun Complex is located across a busy road from Berjaya Times Square - a huge mall that contains an indoor theme park and an apartment complex popular with Singapore visitors.

Singaporean Wong Kim Teng, 67, said he was just stepping into his car when there was an explosion near him.

"It was like thunder. And then suddenly I saw blood all over me," said Mr Wong, who was alone when The Straits Times met him at Ampang Hospital. His legs were injured and he needed five stitches.

Others were less fortunate. Car jockey Tiong Kwang Yie, a 36-year-old from Sarawak, died in the blast.

"Some of the victims were about to board a Toyota Vellfire when an explosive device fell onto them from the second floor of a building," a police officer told the media. "The victims were patrons of a pub and residents of nearby hotels."

Last year had seen a spike in gun violence, which was blamed on gangs fighting over turf. The authorities suspect that the latest incident could be a continuation of that.

"We believe the motive is revenge and more than one person is involved in this," the city's Criminal Investigation Department chief Gan Kong Meng told reporters.

He added that the type of grenades used in the attack were not part of the armoury of Malaysian security forces.

The explosion may further hurt arrivals to a country that has suffered from visitors cancelling trips after two air disasters and a series of kidnappings this year. Malaysia's tourist arrivals from China dropped 32 per cent in May from a year earlier, after a 20 per cent decline in April, Bloomberg reported.

Two other incidents using grenades this year occurred in Selangor. One involved an attempt to rob ATMs and the other appeared to be a murder attempt on a woman.

Apart from Mr Wong, two women from China, one from Thailand and several Malaysians were injured. They were admitted to different hospitals in the city and all of them are now said to be out of danger

shannont@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Oct 10, 2014.
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