Big car bomb in Narathiwat leaves 13 injured

A CAR BOMB rocked Narathiwat's downtown area yesterday, damaging dozens of homes and injuring 13 people, four of them seriously.

The bomb was hidden in a pickup truck parked in front of a karaoke bar, not far from a Chinese shrine.

The blast was detonated early in the afternoon, and left four people seriously injured and nine others with moderate wounds.

Police said later that the vehicle was stolen from its original owner, who was killed in a recent insurgent ambush in Songkhla province.

In separate incidents in Narathiwat, another bomb hidden in a motorcycle parked in Muang district was detected and defused, while a "dud" hand grenade was lobbed into a food shop, but caused no casualties.

The car bomb and attempted attacks occurred despite an earlier warning based on intelligence reports.

A source said the assailants exploited a lunch break when security forces switched shifts.

The pickup that carried the bomb was a grey Mitsubishi with a licence plate (4098) registered in Songkhla, but security officials gave conflicting details over whether it was an authentic plate or a fabricated one.

The blast set fire to the pickup but the blaze was put out by a local fire crew. More than 20 homes and shophouses in the district were damaged.

After the explosion, police detected a motorcycle packed with explosives parked around 300 metres from where the pickup was parked.

A roadblock was set up to prevent passers-by going near it. Ordnance personnel later defused the explosives and disposed of them.

At a food shop in Muang district, witnesses told police that a number of insurgents approached and threw a grenade into the shop, but it was a dud.

Ordnance personnel later collected the grenade and disposed of it.

Witnesses said they saw a teenage male driving the pickup, then getting picked up by another car.

About 50 kilograms of explosives were attached to the vehicle and detonated by a wristwatch, ordnance personnel said.

Police are studying footage from surveillance cameras installed at the site and in all adjacent areas to collect more evidence about the identity of all suspects involved in these incidents, and hope it will help them find out which insurgent groups carried out the terror attacks.

Royal Thai Police spokesman Lt-General Prawut Thawornsiri said the bomb and subsequent disruption were likely aimed at undermining tourism in the region.

Security officials were seeking to determine which insurgent groups were responsible, he said.

Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Narong Sahapatmetha read out a list of people injured by the car bomb.

Four had been seriously wounded, he said, three of them with wounds to their heads and one with a broken leg.

The other victims would remain in hospital care, he added.