Arrest warrants sought for 16 from military court

Police investigators yesterday sought permission from a military court to issue arrest warrants for 16 suspects for their alleged involvement in last month's bombing at the Erawan Shrine, the Metropolitan Police commissioner said.

All of them, including Adem Karadag, who is now believed to have been the bomber, have been charged with colluding in committing premeditated murders and attempted murders and colluding in an explosion that caused deaths, Police Lt-General Sriwara Rangsipramanakul said yesterday.

Investigators are convinced that Karadag, or Bilal Muhammed, is the man seen in CCTV images in a yellow T-shirt who left a backpack containing an explosive device at the shrine on August 17. The explosion left 20 people dead and more than 100 others injured; many foreign tourists were among the casualties.

Sriwara said police have evidence to prove that Karadag was the bomber. The suspect had earlier confessed his role.

Sixteen arrest warrants had been issued for suspects in connection with the bomb blasts at the Erawan Shrine and for a blast at Sathorn Pier the following day.

The Metropolitan Police chief said yesterday that the new arrest warrants being sought from the military court would be for both Thai and foreign suspects, adding that some have already had arrest warrants issued for them by a civilian court. But he declined to identify all of them, claiming he could not remember all the names.

"In seeking the arrest warrants from the military court, the police is acting in line with an order from the National Council for Peace and Order," he said without elaborating.

Under an NCPO order issued after the coup, cases involving explosive materials that are considered military supplies must come under the jurisdiction of the military court, a source familiar with the police investigation said yesterday. That was why the new arrest warrants were being sought from the military court.

Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt-General Prawut Thavornsiri said yesterday that two of the new arrest warrants being sought from the military court were for two foreigners not on the wanted list earlier. Eight other suspects were those already wanted through arrest warrants issued by civilian courts.

Police to reveal 'whole picture' soon

Prawut said investigators had long suspected that Karadag, who was arrested at his apartment room in a Bangkok suburb late last month, was the bomber but they had no clinching evidence to prove it. "Now there is more evidence and there are witnesses who confirm our earlier suspicion," he said, adding the police would soon reveal to the public "the whole picture" of this case.

Meanwhile, national police chief Pol General Somyot Poompanmuang has instructed his adviser on forensic science, Police General Jarumporn Suramanee, to work with the Metropolitan Police for digital 'superimposition' of images to determine whether Karadag is the bomber, whose image was caught on security cameras.

Somyot said an ally country and a company with the necessary equipment had offered to help with the digital superimposition, but he declined to identify them.

The police chief said that personally he was convinced that Karadag was the bomber. He added that the suspect had confessed to his role without being tortured. Karadag's lawyer Choochart Khanphai, yesterday denied media reports that his client had confessed to planting the explosive device.

"My client, a Turkish citizen, maintains that he came into the country on August 21, which is after the bombing," the lawyer told Deutsche Presse-Agentur by phone. The man travelled to Thailand on a fake passport, hoping to continue to Malaysia in search of work, he said.

However, a police source said yesterday that Karadag was caught on security camera inside a Bangkok convenience store in early August.