Thai military court indicts 2 men accused of Bangkok blast

PHOTO: AFP

Bangkok - A Thai military court Tuesday indicted two foreign men for the deadly bombing at a Bangkok shrine in August, an unprecedented attack that sent shockwaves through the junta-ruled nation.

Bilal Mohammed, also known as Adem Karadag, and Yusuf Mieraili have been in custody for nearly three months. Authorities say they have both confessed to their roles in the blast which killed 20 people and injured scores more.

The pair appeared before Bangkok's military court Tuesday morning to hear the charges against them.

"Military prosecutors have decided to indict them on several charges," Withtaya Puangpunngam, chief of military prosecutors, told AFP.

The charges include attempted and premeditated murder, possession of illegal weapons and illegal entry, he said, adding that the accused had "confessed" during earlier police investigations.

The August attack at the Erawan shrine, nestled between plush shopping malls and hotels in a bustling district of central Bangkok, dealt a fresh blow to the nation's image as a holiday paradise.

The capital was already recovering from months of often violent street protests that ended in the May 2014 military coup which toppled an elected government.

Mystery still shrouds the motive for the unclaimed attack, with police not confirming the nationalities of the suspects.

Strong speculation had centred on a link to militants or supporters of the Uighurs, an ethnic group who say they face severe persecution in their homeland in China's Xinjiang region, after Thailand in July forcibly deported a group of 109 Uighurs back to China.

According to his lawyer, Mohammed is a Chinese Uighur who settled in Turkey while Mieraili is a Chinese passport-holder with Uighur ethnicity.

Thai police have rejected the notion that the bomb was a revenge attack for Bangkok's forced deportation of the Uighurs.

Instead investigators say they believe a people-smuggling gang was angered by a crackdown on its illicit business - a theory many analysts have questioned.

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