Bangkok: A key suspect in last month's bombing at a Bangkok shrine that killed 20 people has fled to Turkey, Thai police said today, in another indication that the attack could be the work of members of China's ethnic Uighur minority who have sympathizers in Turkey.
Police had previously said the man, carrying a Chinese passport in the name Abudureheman Abudusataer, may have directed the Aug 17 bombing of the Erawan Shrine.
Investigations revealed that he left Thailand on Aug 16 for Bangladesh, and police speculated that he might have gone to China.
However, national police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri said that information gathered by Thai police and Bangladeshi officials showed that the man departed Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, on Aug 30 and travelled to Istanbul in Turkey as his final destination, via New Delhi and Abu Dhabi.
"He departed Dhaka on Aug 30 for Delhi by Jet Airways. From Delhi, he continued his travel to Abu Dhabi, and from Abu Dhabi he traveled on Aug. 31 to Istanbul. This is his final destination. It's clear," Prawut said.
This bolstered the theory that those behind the blast are Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) from the Chinese region of Xinjiang who have close ties to Turkey. Several of the 12 bombing suspects for whom arrest warrants have been issued are believed to be Turkish.
After weeks of demurring, Thailand has suggested that those behind the blast may have been from a gang involved in smuggling Uighurs. But others speculate they may be separatists or Islamist extremists angry that Thailand repatriated more than 100 Uighurs to China in July.
Uighurs complain of oppression by the Chinese government, and some advocate turning Xinjiang into a separate Uighur state.
Thai efforts to identify the members of the network believed responsible for the bombing continued yesterday, when police in Bangkok raided an apartment that they suspected was linked to a bombing suspect. Police said no bomb-making materials were found in the apartment, which is in a building that serves as a hostel for women. Thai media reported that the two women tenants and a guest were taken away for questioning.
Two other key suspects are also in custody, charged with possession of illegal explosives. One of them was captured from an apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok where police also discovered bomb-making material.
The other was caught near the border between Thailand and Cambodia, and police said his fingerprints were found on a container with explosive material confiscated from the apartment.
Malaysia's police chief also announced today that a Pakistani and two Malaysians have been detained in connection with the Bangkok bombing.